Nov 13, 2012 – Is A Little Still Too Much?


I have been a PPO for a few years now. I always wear the proper clothing and PPE, but there are still times when I have come in contact with sprayed product, either from a gust of wind or what not. Should I be concerned about this? Should I be getting periodic check ups? Or, am I perhaps just a little paranoid? Thanks,


I would prefer to avoid the word "paranoid" and instead use the words "extra cautious", but yeah, you may be a little paranoid. However, that's okay, because it still is better to be overly cautious with pesticides than to be so casual as to ignore some common sense ways to avoid exposure. Let's look at this from a few angles. 

The first is with reference to how some regulatory agencies look at it, and for California, for example, the law states that when using Category 1 or 2 pesticides (Label states either Danger or Warning) the clothing worn as your outer clothing MUST be laundered daily. It must be assumed that the outer clothing is "potentially" contaminated with these more toxic active ingredients and cannot be worn a second day without washing them first. However, the regulations don't say how often clothing must be laundered if only Cat. 3 (Caution) pesticides are used. This may attest to the recognition that the hazard from slight exposure to these less toxic materials is not a health risk as long as normal personal hygiene if followed. Even though you may not be REQUIRED to put on freshly washed work clothing each day it still would be a good idea. Wearing the same shirt and pants all week long is not going to make you a role model for anyone. 

So, yes, slight amounts of airborne droplets are bound to land on your skin or clothing as you work. Of course, we take steps to keep this from happening any more than necessary, and if we know that a substantial amount of the mist ended up on our shirt or hat then we would have the good sense to remove that clothing at the end of the day and make sure it is laundered before wearing it again. If we spill concentrate liquid on our outer clothing we should probably just dispose of it and never wear it again, since concentrates are harder to completely remove. Regulatory agencies also generally have a policy on working outside during windy days, and this may be a prohibition against working when the wind speed is above some minimum mph, or it may simply be a policy that you cannot spray outside when air movement might blow the pesticide up into your breathing zone, and if it can or does you must wear respiratory protection. 

I think a good policy would be that if you actually feel the mist hitting your skin you should wash that skin with soap and water once you complete that job. I wouldn't recommend dropping everything and running in a panic to the nearest source of water, but just when you have the chance in the next half hour or so. This also says that we should be carrying SOAP and TOWELS on the vehicle and have a source of clean water within easy reach. It also suggests that everyone ought to be carrying a change of clothing on the vehicle just in case you spill the concentrate on your shirt or pants. These need to come off immediately and the skin beneath it washed and clean clothing put on. And, definitely at the end of each work day it would be good policy to take a shower before any close interactions with your family. Even though the level of active ingredient you might have on your shirt should be very low, it still is a poison, and there is no reason to expose your family to it if showering and changing clothes first can be done. 

As far as medical checkups, at this time there is no standard testing that is done to monitor for pesticide exposure. It WAS the case back when the most common insecticides used were organophosphates and carbamates, as these could cause cholinesterase inhibition and this could be monitored with a blood test. Today's common products do not affect us in this manner and testing for your exposure would be much more difficult. However, it still is good policy to have at least an annual checkup to monitor all those other things that may even be tied in with a properly working nervous system - heart, blood, etc. But, with proper use of pesticides and the proper wearing of the appropriate PPE your exposure to the active ingredients should be so low that your long term health is not going to be compromised. 

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