Administering and working around pesticides is an important part of working in agriculture. However, while these products are very effective in protecting crops from pests, they can also cause health problems for those who are constantly exposed to them.
For example, results from a Michigan State University study found that workers exposed to high levels of pesticides are more likely to lose their sense of smell later in life. The study surveyed over 11,000 farm workers over a 20-year period as part of the Agricultural Health Study.
According to the study, 10% of workers reported that their sense of smell was impaired, either partially or completely, after being exposed to high levels of pesticides. However, those who washed with soap and water immediately after a high pesticide exposure event had a lower risk of impairment, with longer times between exposure and washing correlating to higher chances of impairment. This underscores the need for a quick response after an exposure event.
Other safety tips that should always be observed to protect from adverse health effects include the following:
- Follow directions on the label for the attended use and application.
- Note first-aid instructions in case of accidental poisoning.
- Follow directions on the label for proper storage or disposal after use.
- Do not smoke, eat, drink, apply cosmetics or use the washroom directly following the use of pesticides.
- Do not use pesticides in winds stronger than 10 mph.
Additionally, wearing protective gear is one of the best lines of defense against exposure to chemicals. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, nonabsorbent gloves, rubber boots, hats, eye protection, masks, aprons, face respirators and dust mist filters are all beneficial while applying pesticides. Clothing should also be checked beforehand for defects or holes that may allow pesticides to reach the wearer.