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Safety is Job One When Using Agricultural Chemicals

Excerpted from the Pesticide Safety for Small Farms publication

Pesticides are chemicals that control pests. They include:
  • insecticides for insects
  • herbicides for weeds
  • fungicides for plant diseases
  • pesticides for other pests, such as rodents and birds

Unfortunately, many pesticides can also hurt people, pets, other animals, and the environment if they are not used carefully and according to label directions. Pesticides can poison or injure you:

  • if you swallow them
  • if they get into your eyes
  • if you inhale dusts or fumes
  • if they get on your skin

Skin contact is the most common way pesticides enter the body. Pesticides that are spilled or splashed onto the skin through cuts and wounds could make you very ill.

Because pesticides can enter your body through your eyes and skin, you should avoid wiping your eyes and skin, face, and neck when you have been hand-ling pesticides. It is also important to wash your hands before using the toilet.

Tobacco and food absorb pesticides, so do not carry them with you while you work. Leave them in a place where pesticides wonÕt get on them.

Accidental contact with a pesticide could injure you or make you sick. Therefore, it is important for you to receive training in how to:

  • understand the health risks associated with pesticide exposure
  • know what to do in emergencies involving pesticides (first aid, spills, cleanup)
  • wear, use, and maintain personal protective gear and clothing (for example, goggles, respirators, and gloves)
  • read and understand information on pesticide labels
  • safely transport, mix, load, apply, store, and dispose of pesticides and pesticide containers
  • safely operate the mixing, loading, and pesticide application equipment
  • avoid exposure through common sense and personal hygiene

You can protect yourself from pesticides in many ways. Watch out for:

  • splashes and spills
  • sprays and dusts from pesticide applications
  • skin contact with pesticide residues

You need to learn as much as you can about pesticides and safety equipment to protect yourself and others from pesticide injury when you work in agricultural businesses, farms, fields, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses.