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If it harms pests it can harm humans

Weeds, insects and fungi — these pests can threaten yields and your bottom line. So when careful field monitoring uncovers a particularly unwelcome pest, most grain farmers reach for the appropriate pesticide and take aim.

But eliminating the European corn borer, club root fungus or sowthistle shouldn’t come at the expense of your health and well-being. After all, what’s harmful to pests can also be harmful to humans. So make sure to wear protective equipment appropriate to the task.

There are four ways that pesticides enter the body: absorption, inhalation, ingestion or injection.

Moist areas of the body are particularly absorptive, especially the eyes, groin, armpits and ear canals. To protect the body, wear chemical-resistant coveralls with elastic cuffs and a hood. The legs of the coveralls should go over the top of footwear, not inside. Footwear should be impervious to chemicals. Runners or leather shoes are a no-no. They absorb chemical splashes, increasing the chemical exposure of the foot. Hands should be covered with unlined gloves resistant to the chemical being handled. They should also have long gauntlets to protect the arms from any inadvertent exposure, such as chemicals dripping up the arm.

Chemicals can also be inhaled through the nose and mouth. To protect your airways, make sure your face is covered with a half-face chemical cartridge respirator and safety goggles or a splash shield.

Once a pesticide has been applied, the mist, dust, powders or fumes don’t just disappear. They can linger on your body, clothes, or other objects. That’s why it is important to wash up thoroughly before using the washroom, touching food or utensils or handling anything that goes into the mouth. Even licking unwashed lips can result in the ingestion of harmful chemical into the digestive system.

Lastly, watch out for sharp objects such as nails, wires or staples that may be contaminated. If one of these objects accidentally pierces the skin, you could be inadvertently injecting chemicals into your body.

As you invest time in pest control, remember to plan to protect yourself and your workers. For more information on pesticide use and personal protective equipment, download the booklet called “Safe Handling & Use of Agricultural Chemicals and Biological Materials” from www.safemanitoba.com (search on the site for “safe handling” to find it quickly.) †

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