Illinois Pesticide Review
July / August 2008
In This Issue
Accidental exposure or overexposure to pesticides can have serious implications. The potential for pesticide accidents is real. Although most of these pesticides can be used with relatively little risk (as long as label directions are followed), some are extremely toxic and require special precautions. Wearing protective clothing and equipment when handling or applying pesticides reduces the hazards or risk of pesticide poisoning. The hazard of pesticide poisoning is reduced because the chance of exposure is reduced.
When considering the hazard of using a pesticide, you need to consider both the toxicity of the pesticide and the exposure (where did you get it on yourself, and how long did you leave it?). Understanding the toxicity of a product and the potential for personal exposure allows the hazard to be lowered. No matter how toxic a pesticide is, if the amount of exposure is kept low, the hazard can be held at an acceptably low level. The toxicity of a pesticide cannot be changed, but the applicator can manage the exposure.
Nearly all pesticides are toxic. They differ only in the degree of toxicity. Because of this, pesticides are potentially dangerous to people if exposure is excessive. A pesticide product label has one of three signal words that clearly indicate the degree of toxicity associated with that product (Table 1). The safest products no longer have a signal word. The signal words indicate the degree of potential risk to a user, not the effectiveness of the product.
Table 1 Signal words indicating toxicity level in pesticide products
Oral lethal dosea
(Human, 150 lb)
Few drops to 1 teaspoonb
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon
1 ounce to more than a pint
Very low toxicity
More than a pint
aLess for a child or person under 150 lb.
bThe skull-and-crossbones symbol and the word "Poison" is often printed with the "Danger" signal word.
Along with the signal words, pesticide labels also include statements about route of entry and specific actions that must be taken to avoid exposure. Route-of-entry statements indicate the outcome that can be expected from exposure. For example, a pesticide label might read: "Poisonous if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Rapidly absorbed through the skin and eyes." This indicates that the pesticide is a potential hazard through all three routes of entry, and that skin and eye contact are particularly hazardous. Specific action statements normally follow the route-of-entry statement and indicate what must be done to prevent poisoning accidents. In the case of the pesticide discussed above, the statement might read: "Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on clothing. Do not breathe spray mist."
Routes of Exposure
Pesticides can enter the human body three ways: (1) by absorption through the skin or eyes (dermally), (2) through the mouth (orally), and (3) by breathing into the lungs (inhalation).
Dermal exposure results in absorption immediately after a pesticide contacts skin or eyes. Absorption continues as long as the pesticide remains in contact with the skin. The rate at which dermal absorption occurs is different for each part of the body. The relative absorption rates are determined by comparing each respective absorption rate with the forearm absorption rate.
Relative absorption rates, compared to the forearm with an absorption rate of 1.0. It is easy to transfer pesticide residues from one part of the body to another. When this occurs, the applicator increases the potential for pesticide poisoning. For example, residues can be inadvertently moved from a hand to a sweaty forehead (4.2) or to the genital area (11.8). At this very high rate, the absorption of a pesticide is more dangerous than if it were swallowed! The speed of which it enters the body can be likened to that of direct injection by hypodermic needle into a vein.
Oral exposure may result in serious illness, severe injury, or even death if a pesticide is swallowed. Pesticides can be ingested by accident, through carelessness, or intentionally.
The most common accidental oral exposures occur when pesticides have been removed from their original containers and placed into an unlabeled bottle, jar, or food container. Children under 10 are victims of at least one-half of the accidental pesticide deaths in the United States. If pesticides were managed properly, children would never touch them.
Follow these guidelines:
• Always store pesticides in their original labeled containers.
• Never use the mouth to clear a spray hose or nozzle, or to begin siphoning a pesticide.
• Never eat, drink, or use tobacco until after leaving the work area and washing thoroughly.
Respiratory exposure is particularly hazardous because pesticide particles can be rapidly absorbed by the lungs into the bloodstream. Pesticides can cause serious damage to nose, throat, and lung tissue if inhaled in sufficient amounts. Vapors and very small particles pose the most serious risks.
Lungs can be exposed to pesticides by inhalation of powders, airborne droplets, or vapors. Handling concentrated wettable powders can pose a hazard if they are inhaled during mixing. The hazard from inhaling pesticide spray droplets is fairly low when dilute sprays are applied with low-pressure application equipment. This is because most droplets are too large to remain airborne long enough to be inhaled.
However, when high-pressure, ultra-low-volume (ULV), or fogging equipment is used, the potential for respiratory exposure is increased. The droplets produced during these operations are in the mist- or fog-size range and can be carried on air currents for a considerable distance.
(Information slightly adapted by Jim Schuster, Extension specialist, Pesticide Safety Education–plant pathology, from University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension EC97-2505-A, Signs and Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning, by Larry D. Schulze, Extension pesticide coordinator; Clyde L. Ogg, Extension assistant, pesticide training; Edward F. Vitzthum, coordinator, environmental programs.)
EPA Updates List of WPS Training Materials
EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs recently updated its list of EPA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) materials. This list features materials for workers, handlers, growers, health providers, and others. Much of this information is available online. Order information is given below.
Not sure if you should order materials yet? We've been waiting for a few years for some rule changes to occur within the WPS. Currently, the closest estimate for a draft public proposal for comment is summer 2010. The gut feeling of many is that we will still be using the current How To Comply manual for at least another 2 or 3 years. I recommend that you go ahead and replace your old materials if you need to. The materials listed below are free. The safety of your workers is worth the time and effort you spend in obtaining good pesticide safety resources.
EPA Pesticide Safety Materials for Workers, Handlers, Health Providers, Growers, and Others
EPA has bilingual posters, handbooks, PDF files, guides, videos, CDs, and other materials available about pesticide safety, how to recognize and treat heat-related illnesses, and the Worker Protection Standard. These materials are available at no cost to help train farm workers and farm worker families; pesticide mixers, loaders and applicators; farmers; health providers; migrant and ESL educators, growers, and other members of the agricultural community about pesticide health and safety issues.
New How-To-Comply CD-ROM Contains Incredible Number of Worker/Handler/Health-Provider Materials. All-in-One! This essential CD-ROM includes worker and handler handbooks, pocket guides, and posted-warning signs in many languages, worker and handler training films, Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisoning in English and Spanish, and many other compliance materials (see "Compliance Guides" at the end). HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
To obtain copies:
• EPA Internet sites. Many documents are available for downloading from the EPA Web sites listed below. Those documents and links are indicated on this list.
• EPA National Agriculture Compliance
901 N. 5th St.
Kansas City, KS 66101
Materials for growers and states about compliance, personal protective equipment, and other WPS-related issues are available to order from the Ag Center. Many can be downloaded at http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/awor.html.
• EPA National Service Center for Environmental Publications
P.O. Box 42419
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242-0419
Online ordering: http://www.epa.gov/nscep/
• Protect Yourself from Pesticides Guide for Agricultural Workers/Protejase de los Pesticidas-Guida para los Trabajadores Agricolas. 43-page, illustrated English/Spanish handbook containing the requirements for training workers under the Worker Protection Standard. Revised 2006. EPA 735-B-06-001. http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/pest/pdfs/ProtectYourselfFromPesticidesSpanish.pdf. It's also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Protect Yourself from Pesticides/Protejase de los Pesticidas. English/Spanish safety poster illustrating the nine basic health and safety messages required by the Federal Worker Protection Standard, including blank areas for listing emergency phone numbers and location of nearest medical facility. 1993. Large color poster, 22" x 34.5" EPA 735-H-93-001. Small color poster, 11" x 17" EPA 735-H-07-001. Information about the poster is available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001. Both are currently on backorder.
• Steps to Protect Yourself from Pesticides. 23-page, 3.5" x by 5" pocket guide to provide basic pesticide safety information to agricultural workers before they receive full training and as a refresher after full training.
—English/Spanish, EPA 735-F-06-002. http://nasdonline.org/document/2021/d000734/pasos-a-seguir-para-protegerse-de-los-pesticidas.html. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
—English/Haitian Creole, EPA 735-F-95-003. http://nasdonline.org/document/2019/d000732/steps-to-protect-yourself-from-pesticides-haitian-creole.html. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
—English/Vietnamese, EPA 735-F-95-004. http://nasdonline.org/document/2022/d000735/steps-to-protect-yourself-from-pesticides-vietnamese.html. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
—English/Laotian, EPA 735-F-95-006. http://nasdonline.org/document/2020/d000733/steps-to-protect-yourself-from-pesticides-laotian.html. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
—English/Portuguese, EPA 735-F-03-008. This will be online soon, and it's available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
—English/Khmer, EPA 735-F-05-015. http://www.epa.gov/ne/eco/pest/pdfs/khm_booklet-735.pdf. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Protect Yourself From Pesticides/Protejase de los Pesticidas. 8.5" x 14", black-and-white, English/Spanish brochure for workers. Condensed version of the safety poster. Illustrates the nine basic health and safety messages required by the Federal Worker Protection Standard, including blank areas for listing emergency phone numbers and location of nearest medical facility. 1994. EPA 735-F-94-001. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Chasing the Sun/Siguiendo El Sol. Video and CD. 36-minute video in English and Spanish covers basic information about pesticide exposure, regulation, and personal protection required for training of workers under the Worker Protection Standard. 1994. Available only on the combined video EPA 305-V-04-001. The CD version is available only on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001
• Pesticide Safety Training for Pesticide Workers and Handlers. English/Spanish video or CD covering basic information about pesticide exposure, regulation, and personal protection required for training of workers, along with English and Spanish pesticide-safety training for pesticide applicators and for mixers, loaders, and handlers of pesticides and equipment under the Worker Protection Standard. Includes the Spanish worker video, Chasing the Sun/Siguiendo El Sol. 1996. Video EPA 305-V-04-001, CD EPA 305-C-06-001.
• Controlling Heat Stress Made Simple/Maneras Sencillas de Controlar la Fatiga Causada por el Calor. 25" x 22" English/Spanish color poster for managing heat stress for agricultural workers, including signs, symptoms, and treatment of early heat illness to heat stress; program to prevent heat illnesses; and how to tell the difference between heat illness and pesticide poisoning. 1995. EPA 750-H-93-001.
• Controlling Heat Stress in Agriculture. Laminated 7.25" x 4" pocket card. 1995. EPA 750-F-95-001. A paper copy can be downloaded from the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Controlar la Fatiga Causada por el Calor en el Travajjo (Spanish version of Controlling Heat Stress in Agriculture). Laminated pocket card. 1995. EPA 750-F-95-002. The laminated card is currently not available. A paper copy can be downloaded from the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Radio Pesticidas. Six Spanish audio tapes, with an English/Spanish service provider's guide on how to use the tapes with radio stations and in educational outreach efforts. Minidramas about key pesticide issues in the field and at home, about 2 to 3 minutes each, for radio and educational outreach to farmworkers. 1997. EPA 735-U-97-001.
• Pesticide Safety for Farmworkers. Spanish CD of 21 one-minute messages for radio and educational outreach to farmworkers. 2002. EPA 735-C-02-900.
• ESL Pesticide Farm Safety, Student Workbook. English workbook designed to teach farm workers basic English about pesticides and farm safety. 1997. EPA 735-B-97-901.
• ESL Pesticide Farm Safety Guide for Teachers. English guide book for teachers designed to teach farm workers basic English about pesticides and farm safety. 1997. EPA 735-B-97-900.
• Protéjase de los Pesticidas—Guia para los que Manejan Pesticidas (Spanish version of Protect Yourself from Pesticides: Guide for Pesticide Handlers). 56-page handbook for training applicators, mixers, loaders, and other pesticide handlers under the EPA Worker Protection Standard. Revised 2006. EPA 735-B-06-004. The new version will be online soon and is available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Pesticide Safety Training for Pesticide Workers and Handlers. English/Spanish video or CD covering basic information about pesticide exposure, regulation, and personal protection required for training of workers, along with English and Spanish pesticide safety training for pesticide applicators, mixers, loaders, and handlers of pesticides and equipment under the Worker Protection Standard. Includes the Spanish worker video, Chasing the Sun/Siguiendo El Sol. 1996. Video EPA 305-V-04-001. CD EPA 305-C-06-001.
• A Guide to Heat Stress in Agriculture. 56-page English handbook for managing heat stress for agricultural workers, including signs, symptoms, and treatment of early heat illness to heat stress, program to prevent heat illnesses, and how to tell the difference between heat illness and pesticide poisoning. 1993. EPA 750-B-92-001. Available only on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Danger Pesticides—Keep Out/Peligro Pesticidas—No Entre. 14" x 16" English/Spanish plastic field warning sign. 1994. EPA 735-H-94-001. Paper copies in Cambodian, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Ilocano, Korean, Laotian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese can be downloaded from the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Protect Yourself from Pesticides—Guide for Pesticide Handlers. 100-page, English handbook for training applicators, mixers, loaders, and other pesticide handlers under the EPA Worker Protection Standard. Revised 2006. EPA 735-B-06-003. The new version will be online soon and is available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisoning. 236-page, English guidance manual for health professionals on the health hazards of pesticides and recommendations for treatment of poisonings and injuries (primarily acute effects) of pesticides. 1999, 5th edition. EPA 735-R-98-003. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/safety/healthcare/handbook/handbook.htm Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• Reconocimiento y Manejo de los Envenenamientos por Pesticidas (Spanish version of Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisoning). 251-page guidance manual for health professionals on the health hazards of pesticides, and recommendations for treatment of poisonings and injuries (primarily acute effects) of pesticides. 1999, 5th edition. EPA 735-R-98-004. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/safety/spanish/
healthcare/handbook/handbook.htm. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
Compliance Guides to the Worker Protection Standards
• Quick Reference Guide to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). 2-page, English brochure. Guide for growers and others interested in provisions of Worker Protection Standard, including all revisions through 2005. November 2005. EPA 305-F-05-005. http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/quickreferenceguide.pdf. Also available on the HTC CD 305-C-06-001.
• How to Comply With the Worker Protection Standard For Agricultural Pesticides, What Employers Need to Know. 141-page manual. Revised September 2005. EPA 735-B-06-002. http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/epa-735-b-05-002.pdf.
• How to Comply With the Worker Protection Standard For Agricultural Pesticides, What Employers Need to Know and Additional Resources. CD-ROM version of the revised WPS How to Comply manual. 2006. EPA 305-C-06-001. The CD version of the How to Comply manual contains several additional compliance-assistance tools.
—Protect Yourself from Pesticides—Guide for Agricultural Workers. Handbook in 12 languages: English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Ilocano, Khmer, Laotian, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
—Steps to Protect Yourself from Pesticides. Worker pocket guides in seven languages: English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Laotian, Portuguese, and Vietnamese.
—Protect Yourself from Pesticides—Guide for Pesticide Handlers handbook (English and Spanish).
—EPA's Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings handbooks (English and Spanish).
—Protect Yourself from Pesticides safety poster (English/Spanish).
—Chasing the Sun/Siguiendo el Sol. Worker training film (Spanish with English subtitles).
—Pesticide Handlers and the Worker Protection Standard. Training film (English and Spanish Versions).
—Posted field warning signs in 11 languages: English, Cambodian, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Ilocano, Korean, Laotian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.
—Nine "Personal Protective Equipment" brochures (English).
—A Guide to Heat Stress in Agriculture (English).
—"Controlling Health Stress in Agriculture" card (English and Spanish).
(Michelle Wiesbrook, adapted from an e-mail from EPA on 7/1/08.)
Pesticide-Residue Testing Labs
University of Illinois Extension Specialists and Educators commonly get questions about where to send plant and soil samples for analysis of pesticide residues. The following list of labs may provide some assistance. Please be sure to contact individual labs regarding specific compounds for testing. Confirm all information by phone before sending samples. Please note that this list may be incomplete. Inclusion does not mean endorsement. (Dawn Refsell)
A & L Great Lakes Laboratories
3505 Conestoga Dr.
Ft. Wayne, IN 46808-4413
APT Labs Inc.
1050 Spring St.
Wyomissing, PA 19610
Midwest Labs, Inc.
13611 B St.
Omaha, NE 68144-3693
Environmental Micro Analysis Inc.
40N East Street, Suite B
Woodland, CA 95776
Soil–Plant Analysis Lab
University of Louisiana at Monroe
Chemistry and Natural Sciences
Building, Room 117
Monroe, Louisiana 71209-0505
MDS Harris Laboratory Services
621 Rose Street,
P.O. Box 80837,
Lincoln, NE 68501
Minnesota Valley Testing Lab
P.O. Box 249, 1126 N. Front St.
New Ulm, MN 56073-0249
Olson Biochem Labs
PO Box 2170 134 ASC
Brookings, SD 57007
Pesticide Residues in the Homes of Farm Families
The following is taken from a fact sheet developed by the Agricultural Health Study, a multiyear study by the federal government examining the long-term effects of pesticides on large numbers of farmers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina, as indicators of these effects throughout the United States. Many of the findings of this study are applicable to commercial pesticide applicators and their families as well. The fact sheet can be found at http://aghealth.nci.nih.gov/pdfs/IAPesticideResiduesAtHome2007.pdf.
Farmers use a wide variety of pesticides to help protect their crops and animals. Although children and other family members may not take part in farming activities involving pesticide use, they can still be exposed if residues are tracked into the home on shoes or clothes.
In 2001, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Cancer Institute, and the University of Iowa worked with a small group of families from the Agricultural Health Study to find out if pesticides were being tracked into their homes.
They visited 25 non-farm homes and 25 farm homes in Iowa. At some of the farm homes, pesticides had recently been applied on crops or animals and at others not. Each home was visited twice in the spring. Farms where pesticides had been recently applied were visited shortly after pesticide spraying and again 4 weeks later. During each visit, they collected dust from carpets and wipes from hard surfaces in the kitchen, entranceway, laundry area, changing area, living room, children's playroom, and children's bedroom. They also took air samples in the living rooms and outside the homes.
They tested for six commonly used herbicides: atrazine, metolachlor, glyphosate, 2,4-D, acetochlor, and alachlor (acetochlor and alachlor were undetectable in most of the samples); and one common insecticide: chlorpyrifos. Overall, chlorpyrifos, glyphosate, and 2,4-D (which are pesticides used in both residential and agricultural settings) were found in dust samples in most farm and non-farm homes (see Chart 1). In addition, farm homes had higher amounts of pesticide residue in air, dust, and hard-surface samples, as compared to non-farm homes. Also, pesticides were found more often in dust from carpets than in the air or on hard surfaces.
On farms where atrazine (see Chart 2) and metolachlor had been applied to crops, higher amounts of these pesticides were found in rooms where dirt was tracked in or where a farmer's outdoor clothes were left. Traces of these two pesticides were also found in the children's bedrooms and playrooms, though the levels were very low. Results for metolachlor were similar to those for atrazine.
The levels of pesticides found in the farm and non-farm homes in this study are not a cause for immediate concern. Efforts to minimize exposures are desirable. Although long-term effects of low-level exposure to pesticides are not known at this time, young children may be more susceptible than adults to the toxic effects of pesticides because their organ systems are still developing. Also, they can be exposed to pesticides through contact with contaminated surfaces such as carpet dust.
Family members can reduce pesticide exposure in the home by (1) removing work clothes in an area away from the rest of the house, and washing them separately from the other laundry, (2) Removing work shoes and boots before going into the house, (3) vacuuming the carpets and cleaning the floors on a regular basis, (4) closing all the windows and doors in the house during pesticide spraying, and (5) keeping children and pets inside when pesticides are applied, and not letting them play in pesticide-treated areas until the label-specified reentry times have passed.
(Adapted by Phil Nixon from a fact sheet developed by the Agricultural Health Study.)
Soil-Fumigant Risk-Mitigation Measures Detailed in Fact Sheets
EPA is providing detailed synopses of the suite of safety measures included in the agency's July 2008 Reregistration Eligibility Decisions (REDs) for the soil-fumigant pesticides chloropicrin, dazomet, metam sodium/metam potassium (including MITC), and methyl bromide. EPA reviewed these soil fumigants as a group to ensure that similar risk-assessment tools and methods were used for all, and risk-management approaches were consistent. When applied, soil fumigants form a gas that controls soil-inhabiting pests. These gases can move then to the air and become a hazard to both bystanders and agricultural workers. Adverse health effects ranging from mild eye irritation to irreversible effects may result. Fact sheets available on the agency's soil-fumigants Web site summarize the following risk-mitigation measures found in all the fumigant REDs:
Posting Buffer Zones
Fumigant Management Plans
Emergency Preparedness and Response
Worker Protection Measures
When new fumigant product labels appear in the marketplace around 2010, fumigant users will need to comply with these requirements, which are designed to protect people involved in the application (handlers), workers who re-enter fumigated fields (workers), and people who may be near the treated area (bystanders) from fumigant exposures, in particular, inhalation exposure. If you currently use these fumigants, you are encouraged to check out the fact sheets.
EPA is accepting public comment until September 15, 2008, on implementation of the risk mitigation measures in the soil-fumigant REDs. For additional information, please see the agency's July 16, 2008, Federal Register notice announcing these decisions and the Web page on risk-mitigation measures for the soil fumigants, http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/reregistration/soil_fumigants/.
(Adapted by Michelle Wiesbrook from an EPA Pesticide Program Update, 8/20/08.)