Pesticides: How to protect yourself

Farmworkers, and often their children, are regularly exposed to pesticides in many ways: mixing or applying pesticides; planting, weeding, harvesting, and processing crops; or living near treated fields. Studies have shown that the clothing parents wear home from agricultural work may put their children at risk for health problems. Children of farmers and agricultural field workers are at high risk for pesticide exposure, even if they are not directly involved in farming activities related to the pesticides. Young children spend a large portion of their time on the floor or ground and can easily come into direct contact with contaminated soil or dust by putting their hands and other objects in their mouths. It is important to change your clothes and shoes before entering your home.

According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, exposure to some pesticides, even in small doses, can immediately cause severe effects. Symptoms may include rashes, vomiting, excessive sweating, dizziness, headaches, muscle pains and cramps, eye irritation, and respiratory difficulty. Some effects may include blindness, severe burns, and death. Other pesticides have been linked to long-term effects, such as cancer, birth defects, and damage to the kidneys, liver and nervous system.

It is important for you to know how to protect yourself and your family from being exposed to pesticides:

  • Wear work clothing that protects your body from pesticide residues, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes, socks, and hats.
  • Make sure to wear gloves made from nitrile, butyl, or neoprene. Never wear leather or fabric gloves because they absorb pesticides.
  • If you’re using gloves more than once, frequently check them for holes by filling them with water. Dispose of gloves that leak.
  • Always use hot water to wash your hands before eating, drinking, chewing gum, or using tobacco.
  • Wash yourself immediately in the nearest clean water source if pesticides are spilled or sprayed on your body. As soon as possible, shower, and change into clean clothes.
  • Keep all clothes with pesticides on them (including underwear) in closed plastic bags. Until you are ready to wash the clothes, keep the bags outside the house. Make sure children and pets cannot get to the bags.
  • Wash your work clothes separately from other clothes before wearing them again.