With the critical need for respirators and other personal protective equipment for health care, the potential for a shortage of protective gear, particularly N95 respirators, may occur in the marketplace for agriculture and pesticide applications.
The label on pesticide products lists the required personal protective equipment. Applicators who do not follow the label-specified PPE requirements because of lack of access to a respirator or other PPE put themselves at risk, potentially add to the need for medical care, and are in violation of the label. The Environmental Protection Agency has made no exemption or relaxation of PPE requirements.
Iowa State University Extension program specialists Betsy Danielson and Kristine Schaefer urge farmers and commercial pesticide applicators to use good judgment and take precautions. Always follow pesticide label precautions when handling and applying ag chemicals. Working with the Pesticide Safety Education Program at ISU and providing applicator training, Danielson and Schaefer offer the following recommendations.
Review pesticide labels
Review the labels of products that are key to the crops you grow. Some herbicide, fungicide and insecticide labels require N95 or other types of respirators to protect against exposure. All respirators, including N95 filtering face-piece respirators, require fit-testing, training and medical evaluations.
Create a list of PPE you have on-hand, including gloves, coveralls, eyewear and respirators. Carefully assess that you have enough PPE for critical pesticide applications. Extra PPE can be donated to health care workers by contacting your local county coordinator for Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
If the label-required respirator is unavailable for a pesticide product, look for an alternative product (not requiring a respirator) or use an alternative management method. There may be a pesticide product available with the same active ingredient, but the formulation type reduces the need for respiratory protection.
The only way to find out if alternative products are approved for use without a respirator is to review their labels. Check out these websites for guidance:
- National Pesticide Information Retrieval System
- Pesticide label references
- Wear PPE When Using Pesticides
- Using a Pesticide That Requires a Respirator?