Good doses of caution and prevention can help keep farmers and acreage owners safer from acute injuries and chronic diseases.
Prevent Chronic Pesticide Effects
Acute injuries are those happening immediately – from an overturned tractor, for example. Chronic diseases occur over a longer period of time -- Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system -- is an example. One major study links Parkinson’s with certain pesticide use.
The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) has involved more than 89,000 farmers and their spouses since 1993. The AHS is the health benchmark of agricultural pesticide applicators, and continues to release information on new health study updates. In 2011 AHS researchers reported that study participants who used the herbicide paraquat or insecticide rotenone were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s as were people who didn’t.
A key to pesticide safety, though, is literally in the palm of your hand: wearing proper gloves.
A 2015 AHS study update reports wearing chemical-resistant gloves and changing clothes after using pesticides may help prevent Parkinson’s. Without gloves, the study showed that Parkinson’s was associated with using paraquat or the insecticide permethrin. Parkinson’s was not associated with applicators who regularly wore gloves.
All gloves, however, are not the same. And, gloves are only one part of personal protective equipment (PPE) required by a pesticide label handlers and applicators need to protect themselves.
At minimum PPE recommends gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks. How do you know what else to wear, such as gloves, goggles, respirators and aprons? (See Protective Clothing and Equipment for Pesticide Applicators.)
Read the Label
The simple answer: the label. The pesticide label is a legal document that tells all about the details of using a particular product, including gloves and other PPE. Chemical-resistant gloves, for example, are made of barrier laminate, butyl rubber, nitrile rubber, neoprene rubber, natural rubber, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or Viton.
Note the following tips:
- Water-resistant is not chemical-resistant, and typical household, cotton or leather gloves should never be used for protection from pesticides.
- Never re-use any disposable, one-time use gloves or other PPE.
- Glove length, such as elbow-length, also may be specified on the product label.
- Chemical-resistant gloves for use with pesticides are unlined, to prevent the lining from absorbing any pesticide and transferring it to the wearer’s skin.
- When removing gloves, first wash thoroughly with soap and water. Carefully remove gloves without touching skin or the glove’s interior.
Pesticide product labels undergo scheduled reevaluations, and can be changed at any time – even within a season -- due to new research and/or regulatory requirements. That’s why it’s imperative to read the entire label every time you purchase a pesticide product. Always follow label directions.
In February 2016, the AHS also reported that farm workers who have a high pesticide exposure event – such as a spill – are more likely to experience molecular changes on DNA that may lead to certain cancers.
Other AHS studies are ongoing with pesticides and potential memory loss and kidney disease.
The Agricultural Health Study is a prospective study of cancer and other health outcomes in a cohort of licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses from Iowa and North Carolina. The AHS began in 1993 with the goal of answering important questions about how agricultural, lifestyle and genetic factors affect the health of farming populations. The study is a collaborative effort involving investigators from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
More than 89,000 farmers and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina have been involved in the AHS since 1993 https://aghealth.nih.gov/ .