Utah's 13,000 farms make for at least 13,000 reasons why safe use of pesticides for the health of farm families and the environment is essential, a Utah State University pesticide expert said.
Pesticides can be dangerous to farmers, farm workers and others if used carelessly, said Howard Deer, USU Extension pesticide specialist.Since 1947, the U.S. government has required certain label restrictions on pesticide products. Restrictions concern protective clothing requirements, vacating fields during spraying operations and precautions for re-entry of fields that have been treated.
"Label requirements are established on the basis of a careful analysis of the chemical and its proposed crop use," Deer said.
Both state and federal label restrictions are enforceable by law and call for civil and criminal penalties for misuse, he said.
Deer said the national pesticide protection standards include:
- No application of a pesticide to any field is permitted if unprotected workers or other people not involved in the spraying are within the area to be treated.
- No unprotected workers may enter any field treated with a pesticide until the sprays have dried or the dusts have settled. Protective clothing requirements include at least a hat or other suitable head covering, a long-sleeved shirt and long-legged trousers or a coverall type garment, shoes and socks.
- Appropriate and timely warnings for workers expected to be laboring in treated fields are required. The warnings may be given verbally or by posting signs at field entrances or on bulletin boards where workers usually assemble. If a worker does not read or does not speak English, a reasonable effort must be made to assure that the warnings are understood.
Deer said these general regulations do not replace label restrictions on individual pesticide products. If the label directions on a particular pesticide specify more stringent precautions than those enumerated in these national standards, then the label directions apply.
"Mosquito-abatement projects, greenhouse treatments, livestock and other animal applications and other non-agricultural treatments are not covered by the national standards," he said. "However, all label restrictions on specific products must be followed in these applications."
The Environmental Protection Agency has designated specific re-entry standards for certain pesticides found to be hazardous to workers who enter fields too soon after pesticide application, he said.
If a pesticide is highly toxic orally, dermally or through inhalation, he said, the label is accompanied by the word "DANGER" in large boldface letters. If the pesticide is moderately toxic, it is listed with the word, "WARNING." If it is only slightly toxic, the pesticide bears the signal word, "CAUTION."
In use of pesticides, Deer said to wash hands and face before eating, drinking, using the bathroom or using tobacco. Also avoid touching the face or other bare skin with contaminated gloves or clothing.
He said to immediately remove clothing and take a shower in case of excessive contamination - particularly at the end of the day before changing into clean clothes.
Pesticides come in various formulations including granules, wettable powders, dusts, flowables and emulsifiable concentrates. Deer said to look on the pesticide label under the boldface heading "HAZARDS TO HUMANS." Directions will specify which part or parts of the body should be protected.
He said the greatest danger when handling pesticides is when they are in concentrate form. This is when the most care must be taken to see that the body is properly covered.