Summary: When working with hazardous chemicals it is required to use the PPE (personal protection equipment) listed on the label. Use of PPE protects your health and it is mandated by the law.
Different kinds of pesticides require different kinds of personal protection equipment (PPE). Even the circumstances of how you are using the pesticide can affect what kind of safety equipment is necessary. For instance, sometimes there are different requirements for the personal protection equipment that must be used when mixing the chemicals and for when the chemicals are being applied. There might be different requirements for indoor versus outdoor usage, or for agricultural versus home use. The regulations for using PPE are based on how dangerous the chemical is and how much exposure the human body can tolerate.
The rules for PPE use are there for your protection. They are not an option, but are the minimum amount of personal protection equipment that is necessary by law. Pesticides are always labeled with signal words to indicate how dangerous they are. The signal words are:
DANGER = Highly toxic. Oral lethal dose is a few drops to one teaspoon. This might also have the skull and crossbones symbol on the label.
WARNING = Moderately toxic. Oral lethal dose is one teaspoon to one tablespoon.
CAUTION = Low Toxicity. Oral lethal dose is one ounce to over one pint.
There are different grades for different PPE devices. Some types of gloves, for example, would be suitable to use with one kind of pesticide, but unsuitable to use with another. Barrier laminate equipment will provide the best protection and can be used with most pesticides, even those that are oil based. Simple rubber gloves would not be suitable for use when handling many kinds of oil based chemicals. Make sure that the protective equipment that you are using is suitable to use with the kind of pesticide you are handling. There is a significant difference between water resistant and chemical resistant materials.
Some kinds of chemicals require the use of eye goggles, a full face mask, or even the use of a respirator. This will depend on how harmful the pesticide is, whether there is a high risk of getting it in your eyes, and whether it has toxic fumes. Eye goggles, full face masks, and respirators must fit your face, so you might have to try several different sizes before you find a type that fits you correctly. If you are having difficulty finding a respirator size that fits, you might have to try getting one from a different manufacturer.
Particulate filter respirators trap solid and liquid particles by means of a very fine filter. The filter should be changed when you experience excessive breathing resistance. Chemical cartridge respirators are filled with specially treated activated carbon which absorbs certain gases and vapors. The cartridge should be changed at regular intervals, preferably before you start to smell or taste the substance you are dealing with.
Many kinds of respirators have a letter that will indicate their effectiveness in protecting skin from oil based pesticides. The rating scale is:
N = Not to be used with oil
R = Resistant to oils “ Use up to 8 hours.
P = Oil proof “ Can use for periods longer than 8 hours.
HE = High efficiency “ Change when you notice a restriction in airflow or smell chemicals.
Most pesticides designed for homeowner have a safety rating of œcaution. Others are prepackaged and ready to use without having to mix chemicals or even open a package. Some pesticides come ready to attach to a hose. These hose-end spray packages are leak proof, and pesticide mixtures come out of the hose watered down, so they decrease your potential exposure.
Household use pesticides are usually packaged in much smaller amounts than agricultural use pesticides because they are usually applied to much smaller areas. Even with the increased safety precautions that are designed into the packaging of homeowner pesticides, the chemicals can still be dangerous and might need special person protection equipment to apply them safely. The information you need to know will be written on the label of the pesticide, so read it carefully before you do anything else.
Nothing is more important than safety when handling pesticides.