It’s not “if,” but “what” protection should be worn

Written by Gene Caballero on October 27, 2016

It may seem like a nuisance to cover oneself in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) every time the lawn needs to be sprayed with pesticides. However, it is important to recognize the potential danger of pesticides and other harmful chemicals coming in direct contact with the skin or entering the body through any orifice. According to the Global Healing Center, pesticides can cause damage to the endocrine system as well as increase the chances of developing cancer.

Since 90% of chemical exposure occurs through the skin, it is very important to wear PPE’s when spraying pesticides. These risks are only magnified when considering that people who use pesticides without proper protection are likely to suffer from repeated exposure. So what specific type of personal protective equipment should be worn?

Respiratory Protection—Choose an approved respirator that fits the chemical and duration of likely exposure. This will prevent any inhalation of harmful overspray that can cause damage to the lungs. Refer to the Occupational Health & Safety respirator fact sheet for more information on specifics.

Headwear—Wear waterproof, washable material, and do not use leather or cloth sweatbands. When choosing helmets, hoods, or hats, make sure they protect the head, neck, and upper shoulders. Select only CSA-approved safety hats with rain brims.

Eye Wear—Wear chemical protective goggles or a face shield at all times when mixing or spraying pesticides. Even some household pesticides can cause temporary or permanent blindness or severe irritation.

Protective Clothing—Make sure the entire body is covered and no skin is exposed therefore eliminating potential skin irritation. If available, wear rubber or vinyl coveralls and unlined rubber boots. If possible, canvas, cloth, or leather clothing should be avoided as they have a greater absorbency potential.

Gloves—Wear durable, chemical protective gauntlet rubber gloves which extend up the forearm. Stay away from leather, paper, or fabric gloves as these materials absorb and hold liquids. Protecting the hands will not only prevent skin irritation, but will also reduce the risk of spreading any chemical exposure once the gloves are removed.

However, simply wearing PPE is not enough. Many lawn care professionals in Roswell, Georgia are adamant about their PPE. Logan with LA Lawns says, “For PPE to be effective, it must be regularly cleaned, maintained, and properly disposed when it reaches its end of life.” Here are the best ways to make sure that protective equipment will do its job:

-Wash goggles with soap and water and then sanitize by soaking for 2 minutes with 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

-Wash all clothing worn during treatment separate from any other articles of clothing. Make sure to use hot water on the longest cycle and use heavy-duty liquid detergent.

-Wash gloves with soap and hot water before removing them. This protects the skin from the pesticide residue. Once gloves have been washed and removed, immediately wash hands and face with soap and water.

-Check expiration dates on all masks and filters. Over time, these items can get old and not be effective. If outdated, you may be unknowingly breathing in harmful pesticide chemicals.

It is important to be clear that this article is not an indictment of pesticide usage. Ryan Mefford with Beast Mowed Lawncare, one of the largest mowing companies in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been using pesticides on a daily basis. Ryan says, “In most circumstances, pesticides can be sprayed without harm to any involved parties. Just keep in mind a few things—wearing the proper protection can significantly decrease the odds of any inhalation or skin irritation; properly washing and disposing of worn out protective gear is just as important.” When chemical products like pesticides are 

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