Reduce Pesticide Exposure with Proper Gloves, Other PPE
Proper gloves are paramount as personal protective equipment. The Agricultural Health Study has reported that wearing chemical-resistant gloves and changing your clothes after using pesticides may help prevent Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous system disorder.
Chemical-resistant gloves (Figure 1) are needed to mix, load, and apply pesticides, especially restricted use pesticides (RUPs). The best gloves are unlined, liquid-proof neoprene, butyl, PVC, Viton®, barrier laminate, or nitrile with tops that extend well up on the forearm. Most are available in reusable pairs that can be cleaned after each mixing-loading task or pesticide application. Disposable nitrile gloves also are available in a variety of weights.
Avoid lined gloves because lining can absorb the pesticides and be hard to clean. Latex gloves, commonly used by medical personnel, don’t provide adequate dermal protection as they’re not chemical-resistant. Never wear cotton, leather, or canvas gloves or shoes (Figure 2) unless the label specifically requires them, as do certain fumigants. (Some fumigants penetrate rubber, neoprene, and leather; if trapped inside a glove, these fumigants can cause severe skin irritation or be absorbed through the skin.) In most cases, wear gloves under your sleeves to keep the pesticide from running down the sleeves and into the gloves. When working with hands above your head, roll glove tops into cuffs to prevent the pesticide from running down the gloves to your forearms. (As an extra safety measure, duct tape around where the glove and sleeve meet.)
Choosing the Right Gloves
See Nebraska Extension NebGuide G1961, Pesticide Safety: Choosing the Right Gloves.
For more information on proper PPE, including respirators, clothing, and laundering, see the recently updated NebGuide G758, Protective Clothing and Equipment for Pesticide Applicators.
Manage Your Health Risk
While you cannot control how toxic a product is, you can manage your health risk by wearing the proper personal protective equipment to reduce exposure. Be smart and limit or avoid exposure!
Risk = Toxicity x Exposure
When a pesticide must be used, use a product with lower toxicity and use only as directed by the label. (*The three signal words are "Warning," "Caution," and "Danger." Of the three, "Warning" has the lowest toxicity.) Beyond safety, following the label is economical. Applying too much pesticide wastes money and product and is illegal. Applying too little wastes money, is ineffective, and contributes to pest resistance.