Safety with pesticides should be a concern of everyone involved with these chemicals. Although pesticides provide real benefits, they can also be dangerous if mishandled or misused. An accidental death from pesticides is a rarity, but skin disorders and health problems are not. Additionally, improper handling or use of pesticides can result in harmful effects to the environment.
Pesticide safety begins with the selection of the proper product and proceeds through the transportation, storage, mixing, loading, application, and disposal of the pesticide and its container. Read the label.
Reading and understanding the label before purchase is the first consideration. The product name provides recognition. It is generally designed to attract you (so you will make a purchase) and to promote product identification. It helps you to find the product when you return to make additional purchases.
The terms "active ingredient" and "percent" give you more precise information. The active ingredient is the material, which controls the pest. Should product "A" have two percent active ingredient, and product "B" four percent, product "B" has twice the amount of actual pesticide and it will be twice as strong. Likewise, if product "C" has two pounds of active ingredient per gallon, it has twice the active ingredient of product "D" if it contains only one pound per gallon. Remember, this comparison applies only when two products have the same active ingredient. Other factors, however, may determine the concentrate of the product best suited for your needs.
There are many other items of information to study on the pesticide label before you can make an intelligent purchase.
Look for this number on every product. It is your assurance that the product has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and should be safe and effective when used as directed on the label. This means you must read the rest of the label before making your purchase.
Before you buy any pesticide make sure the product is labeled for use against the pest, on the plants or animals, in the environment where you plan to use the product. A product may be labeled to control a pest on nursery plants, but not for the same pest on fruits, vegetables, or house plants in the home.
Pesticides carry one of three precautionary words or phrases.
The products most toxic to humans will be labeled "DANGER-POISON" and display a skull and crossbones. These products are extremely toxic in the form found in the container, before they are diluted. Only a few drops could cause severe burns, serious health problems, or even death.
Products labeled "WARNING" are less toxic to humans, but extreme care must be exercised in their use, particularly before they are diluted.
The word "CAUTION" will appear on those pesticides that are the least harmful when used as directed. These products, however, can still cause serious injury or health problems, and even death. You will notice that pesticides carrying even the least toxic message, the word "CAUTION", often carry the statement "KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN."
LD or lethal dose value is another term used in describing pesticide toxicity. An LD/50 indicates the amount of active ingredient in the pesticide formulation that would be lethal to 50 percent of a population of test animals. The LD amount is expressed in milligrams of toxic product per kilogram of body weight. Thus, a pesticide with an LD/50 of 50mg/kg is ten times more toxic than a pesticide with an LD/50 of 500mg/kg.
Classes of Pesticide Toxicity and their Oral Lethal Doses.
|Signal Word||Toxicity||Lethal (Oral) Dose (160 lb man)**|
|Danger Poison*||Highly toxic||Few drops to 1 teaspoon|
|Warning||Moderately toxic||1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon|
|Caution||Low toxicity||1 ounce to more than 1 pint|
|* Skull and crossbones symbol included.
** Less for a child or person weighing less than 160 lbs.
This is information about first aid and can be limited or detailed. It may give advice on what to do if the product is accidentally swallowed, inhaled, or gotten into the eyes or onto the skin.
The statement may tell you that you need to purchase additional equipment and supplies before you can use the product safely and be able to deal with accidents effectively.
You need to know what to do if someone is accidentally poisoned by the pesticide. Be sure you understand the Statement of Practical Treatment.
Have materials available to administer first aid. Always call a doctor or emergency room immediately if an accident occurs.
Make sure the doctors are given the pesticide label; it will help the doctor prescribe immediate correct treatment. Emergency telephone numbers, including that of the nearest poison control center, should be posted near all telephones.
Don't purchase the pesticide if you cannot store it properly or dispose of unwanted quantities safely. Seek an agreement with the dealer that unopened, unused quantities can be returned for credit. Purchasers of large quantities of pesticides might even obtain an agreement on the return of empty pesticide containers.
Some pesticides are classified as "restricted use." These pesticides can be purchased and applied by state-certified licensed applicators only. Restricted use pesticides are identified by a prominent restricted use statement located above the brand name on the front of the label. Pesticides that are not classified as restricted use are considered unclassified and can be purchased and used in accordance with the label by the general public.
You can make intelligent purchases of pesticides by completely reading and understanding the label. A product you have chosen wisely will do the job economically and safely. It is the user's legal responsibility to thoroughly read and follow label instructions. Remember, by reading the directions and warnings before you purchase the pesticide you can protect yourself, your family and the environment from serious accidents.
There are three ways for pesticides to enter the body:
Inhaled pesticides are absorbed rapidly into the body through the thin membranes of the lungs. Wearing a properly-fitted respirator with the proper cartridge or canister is very important. Replace the canister or cartridge after every few hours of use, or whenever the odor or taste of the pesticide is detected, or when breathing becomes difficult. Working upwind of the pesticide dust, mists, and vapor, and not smoking pesticide-contaminated cigarettes are other safety practices to follow.
Although breathing pesticides is the most rapid way for them to enter the blood stream, most acute poisonings are the result of swallowing pesticides. It happens more often. Swallowed or ingested, they are absorbed more slowly and less completely than by breathing. Establishing good work habits, including washing hands before eating, and not eating, smoking, or drinking while working with pesticides will reduce the chances of ingesting pesticides. It must be emphasized that pesticides should never be stored in anything other than their original containers. Putting pesticides in containers that originally held food or drink has resulted in many accidental poisonings.
All pesticides may enter the body by absorption through the skin and eyes, the most common method of accidental poisoning. The eyes, stomach, groin, arms, hands, and forehead are the likely areas for absorption. Most absorption is through the hands and forearms during the handling, mixing, and loading operations.
The importance of protective gloves and long sleeves can not be overemphasized. Be extremely careful to see that open wounds, sores, or blisters are not exposed to pesticides. Wearing the proper protective clothing and equipment, changing and laundering immediately after working with pesticides, and showering thoroughly with detergent or soap will reduce the danger of absorption.
Should you spill pesticides onto your body, the first two minutes are critical. Immediate removal of your clothing and a long soapy shower are required.
Many of the early symptoms of mild pesticide poisoning are similar to the symptoms of the flu, heat stroke, exhaustion or the common cold. However, if these symptoms occur while working, or shortly after you have been working, with pesticides contact your supervisor, nurse, or doctor.
The new Worker Protection Standard (WPS) requires that all agricultural workers and pesticide handlers be trained about pesticide safety. It is the employers' responsibilities to ensure that agricultural workers and pesticide handlers have received the pesticide safety training, as described below.
Agricultural workers are those who perform hand labor tasks, such as weeding, planting, cultivating, and harvesting, or other tasks involved in the production of agricultural plants on farms or in greenhouses, nurseries, or forests.
Pesticide handlers are those who handle agricultural pesticides (mix, load, apply, clean or repair equipment), or perform other tasks that bring them into direct contact with pesticides.
Each agricultural worker and pesticide handler must be trained about pesticide safety except those who:
Be aware that different WPS training programs are required for agricultural workers and for pesticide handlers. Training materials for both programs are available from EPA, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, or your county extension office.
NOTE: Prior to October 20, 1997, workers must be trained about general pesticide safety before they accumulate more than 15 separate days of entry into treated areas.
Handlers and workers must be trained at least once every 5 years, counting from the end of the month in which the previous training was completed.
The WPS safety training requirements for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers became effective on January 1, 1995.
The pesticide safety training materials for workers and handlers must be either:
WPS worker safety training must cover the following 11 concepts/topics:
NOTE: WPS worker training materials must use nontechnical terms that the worker can understand.
WPS training for pesticide handlers must include the following topics/information:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard requires that all employees be apprised of all hazards, including pesticides, to which they are exposed. This includes all handlers, mixers, loaders and applicators of pesticides.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that restricted use pesticides can only be purchased by and applied by trained and state-certified, licensed applicators or others under their close supervision
Pesticides should never be transported inside the passenger compartment of an automobile or truck cab; put them in the trunk or in the back of the truck. Never transport them where they could come in contact with people, groceries, livestock feed, or other products, which might become contaminated.
When transporting pesticides in a truck, see that they are secured to prevent spillage or loss due to sudden starts, stops, turns, etc. Should there be an accident or spill immediately inform the local police and fire officials of the quantity and name of the pesticide involved. Even small spills or releases, particularly of extremely hazardous pesticides, must be reported to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) (904-488-1320) and your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).
Applicators of pesticides, particularly in populated areas, must take special precautions to secure products transported to the application site. Allowing containers of pesticides to remain unattended on the back of an open truck is inviting an accident, and a costly lawsuit.
Commercial transporters of pesticides must meet special requirements: vehicles must carry placards, bills of lading, labels of the product, etc.
Those businesses with large quantities of pesticides to store should have a separate building for this purpose. In addition to the above features, this facility should also include the following characteristics.
Mixing and loading pesticides are among the most dangerous tasks with these products, because it is at this time that people are working with open containers of concentrated pesticides.
For this reason, individuals employed to perform this activity should be well-informed of the dangers involved, and work under the close supervision of a properly certified, licensed applicator whenever handling restricted-use pesticides.
Mixing and loading should never be done without a full understanding of the pesticide label and should always be done with the use of all recommended personal protective equipment. The label will identify the dangers involved and the precautions to follow. It may indicate the signs and symptoms of poisoning, and recommend first aid practices should one be exposed to the product.
Before you begin to mix, load, and apply pesticides, and after you understand the label directions, make certain you have taken the following precautions.
When applying pesticides, applicators are not exposed to the same high concentration of pesticide as they are during the mixing and loading operation. However, the time-length of exposure is much longer, thus the cumulative exposure may be equal to or greater than that during the mixing/loading operation.
Pesticide applications are made with everything from hand sprayers and dusters, to irrigation equipment, to large airblast grove sprayers and aircraft. Whatever equipment is used, many of the safety precautions are the same.
Major problems exist in the disposal of pesticides and pesticide containers. These are: the disposal of excess quantities of mixed pesticides, disposal of rinsates, the disposal of unwanted quantities of obsolete, deteriorated or unwanted pesticides, and the disposal of containers.
Accidental spills can happen in transport, in storage, or in the mixing, loading, or application activities. Many labels describe what actions should be taken should a spill occur; if the label contains such directions, follow them.
If the spill or release is a pesticide classified as an extremely hazardous substance (EHS) and exceeds the reportable quantity (RQ) you must follow the procedures detailed in SARA TITLE III, the Community Right-to-Know Law, requires that these spills or releases be reported immediately - within fifteen minutes - to the local fire department and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) or the State Emergency Response Committee (SERC).
The following are practices to follow with all spills.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has established regulations requiring submission of reports of spills, above certain amounts. All large spills of a hazardous chemical such as a pesticide (more than one gallon liquid or one pound solid) must be reported promptly to EH&S. That office will make the report to DEQ, LEPC, or SERC if necessary.
If the spill is liquid then activated charcoal, absorptive clay, vermiculite or sawdust should be used to soak up all the material. Sufficient absorbent material should be used to soak up the liquid. The material should then be swept up and/or shoveled into a leakproof drum. Saturated soil should also be placed into drums.
It may be necessary to neutralize the area. Again, check the label. Hydrated lime, lye, ammonia, sodium hypochlorite and detergents are frequently recommended.
Supplies of absorbent and neutralizing materials should be available in the storage or mixing/loading area at all times, along with the tools and other supplies necessary for a clean-up.
The contaminated materials may be hazardous wastes. In many cases they are not usable and must be shipped to an incinerator or sanitary landfill approved for disposal of hazardous wastes. This type of disposal is costly, therefore, it is important to follow all safety precautions to prevent spills.
Under the EPA's Worker Protection Standard (WPS) nursery and greenhouse operations are required to provide workers with specific protections. These include safety training for pesticide handlers and general workers, the posting of application information in a central area, the distribution and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), etc. There are, however, special requirements, which apply only to nurseries and greenhouses. The following outlines these special restrictions.
Nurseries are required under WPS to follow special restrictions during applications in terms of who can enter treated areas. Basically, non-pesticide handlers are not allowed into treated areas during applications and in certain circumstances are not allowed within specific distances from the treatment area. Once the application is completed, workers may not enter the treated area during the Restricted Entry Interval (REI) for the materials applied. Workers, however, are allowed to enter bordering areas that were restricted during the application.
The special entry restrictions apply only during the application of a pesticide and are grouped based on the method of application used.
The first category covers materials applied aerially, or in an upward direction, or using a spray pressure greater than 150 psi. During these applications non-pesticide handler workers are not allowed in the treated area and within 100 feet surrounding the entire treatment zone. This restriction also applies for fumigant, smoke, mist, fog and aerosol applications.
The second category for restriction applies to materials that are applied in a downward direction using a spray pressure between 40 and 150 psi, or applied as a fine spray, or from a height greater than 12 inches above the tops of plant material. For these situations, non-pesticide handler workers are not allowed in the area and within 25 feet surrounding the entire treatment zone.
This requirement also applies if the pesticides label requires the applicator to wear a respirator during applications.
The final category covers any other method of application such as drenches, etc. In these situations non-pesticide handler workers are not allowed in the treated area.
Greenhouses are also required under WPS to follow special requirements during and after applications in terms of sign posting and who can enter treated areas. The posting of signs on greenhouse doors during all applications and REI's is mandatory. Entry restrictions are based on how a material is applied.
If the pesticide is applied as a fumigant, no non-pesticide handler is allowed in the entire greenhouse, including any adjacent structure that cannot be sealed off from the treated area until ventilation criteria are met.
If the material is applied as a smoke, fog, mist or aerosol, or if the label requires the use of a respirator during applications, non-pesticide handlers must vacate the entire enclosed area during treatment until ventilation criteria are met.
If any other application method is used and the material is applied from a height greater than 12 inches above the tops of plants, or is applied as a fine spray, or using a pressure greater than 40 psi, the treatment area and 25 feet surrounding the treatment zone must be vacated until the application is completed.
For all other application techniques only the treated area must be vacated until the application is complete.
After the application is complete, if the above criteria have been met, workers may enter treated areas during the REI if they wear appropriate PPE. However, what is considered to be the treated area during the REI may vary.
If the application involved a fumigant, there are no entry restrictions once ventilation criteria have been met. If the material was applied as a smoke, mist, fog, or aerosol, the treated area is the entire enclosed area. For all other application methods the area physically treated with a pesticide is restricted from entry.
In certain situations, workers are not allowed into treated areas until specific ventilation criteria for the greenhouse are met (see above). In these situations, employers must make sure that one of the following criteria are met:
Remember, no workers may enter the areas treated in the greenhouse until these have been met.