Driving around town, on a nice day, you are likely to see homeowners applying pesticides. You see them in short sleeves and shorts and sometimes even in their flip flops! From witnessing so many homeowners applying pesticides with little to no personal protective equipment on, tells me we could all use some education on this topic.

There are very few laws that regulate homeowners that use and store pesticides. Licensed professionals must pass an exam and then attend educational seminars to stay certified. I cannot think of any training available for the public on pesticide safety. Licensed pesticide applicators must also keep records and do things like putting out lawn pesticide application signs when they spray. These are things that a homeowner is not required to do.

One thing everyone of us must do is use and store pesticides according to the “pesticide label.” People in general don’t read instructions to the fullest if they can get away with it. This goes with most things, not just pesticides. The instructions on a pesticide container is different. This “pesticide label” is the law. By not following the label when storing and applying pesticides you are actually not following federal law!

In order to decrease pesticide runoff caused by homeowners, many concentrated pesticides have been removed from the retail market. Having only ready to use pesticides has greatly reduced spills and over application that cause runoff into nontarget areas. It is a very common mindset, that if two glugs of herbicide concentrate provides adequate control, three glugs will work even better. Millions of dollars are poured into developing pesticides. The application rate on the label is the best rate. Any deviation is less effective even if its a stronger rate.

Follow the label. That is the single most important thing anyone can say about pesticide safety. It will teach you were you can use the product, how to store it, what pests it controls, how much product to apply to a specific area, and much more. The most overlooked information on the label may very well be the part on personal protective equipment, or PPE. Otherwise you wouldn’t see people out there in their bikinis spraying the cracks in their driveways for weeds.

In most cases the label requires an applicator to wear a long sleeve shirt, pants boots and gloves. This is important. The most common cause of pesticide poisoning is through the skin (dermal exposure). The other causes are through inhalation and ingestion.
There are two kinds of pesticide poisoning acute and chronic. Acute may be from walking barefoot in your lawn after an herbicide treatment, or not wearing proper PPE when applying. You may feel nauseous, and just outright sick. An example of chronic pesticide poisoning is cholinesteris inhibition from the use of carbamates or organophosphates. This can cause you to get very ill. After apply these products repeatedly without proper ppe, you may start vomiting or even have seizures. A couple cholinesterase inhibitores that you may use are: sevin dust, and dylox, which is grub control.

Wearing proper PPE and following the label are not things to disregard. Just because the pesticide doesn’t stink or burn your skin, doesn’t mean it won’t harm you. You can also effect others through your pesticide use. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in roundup, has been linked to adhd in children. 2,4d which is the main ingredient in most lawn herbicides, causes reproductive harm and can damage dna. It has a feminizing effect and can cause male offspring to have smaller than normal genitalia and recessed testicles. It also effects female offspring, and future generations of offspring.

You can never be too cautious when working with pesticides. Remember to wash pesticide soiled clothing seperately with hot water and an extra rinse. You should also run an empty load afterwords before washing anything else. Also remember that your body will keep absorbing the chemical as long as its in contact with your skin. So change your clothes and shower after working with pesticides.

A few things that not many people know about pesticide safety: Don’t wear a ball cap while applying pesticides. The area around your eyes and forehead absorb more chemicals than any other part of your body (well second, only to the scrotum). Your forehead will sweat wearing a ball cap opening your pores. The pesticide sticks to the ball cap and acts like a wick. You can suck up a lot of chemical that way. Especially if you dont wash your hat afterwords!

Regular old leather boots and gloves are not adequate protection. Leather absorbs chemicals like a sponge. It provides minimal protection for a very short time frame. You can’t really wash leather to get the chemicals out either.

Okay so you are a rare homeowner that actually uses rubber boots and gloves when working with pesticides.

Did you know that rubber isn’t completely iron clad against chemicals? Rubber is only resistant to pesticides. Chemicals will work their way through over time unless they are washed after use. Timing of this, depends on the material’s thickness. A thin latex or nitrile glove like the one’s doctor’s use are not good for long. Twenty minutes to forty-five is about all you get. The long, thicker ones like dishwashing gloves last a few hours. And heavy thick rubber like boots or the black gloves, can last 8 to 12 hours I think. Nonetheless rubber PPE can only hold off chemicals for less than 24 hours before it soaks through. So wash after use or dispose of them.

One last thing to mention. Pesticides break down overtime outside. The air, sun, weather, and microbes all work to break down pesticides in the environment. Pesticides often get tracked indoors where these conditions are not present. Lawn herbicides get tracked in more than anything. They also tend to be the most harmful. 2,4d and others can get tracked indoors and rubbed into your carpets, where they persist for years.