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Safety and Health

February 23, 2009

All Washed Up

That pair of jeans you wore while filling the sprayer may not look dangerous. But if they contain a pesticide residue, they could be

hazardous to you and your family.

During pesticide application, clothing can pick up pesticide residues through spills and drift. Tossing the garment into the washer or laundry basket with other clothes can transfer the residue to those garments.

Data from the Agricultural Health Study shows 14 out of every 100 people who apply pesticides report they have had an event when they were exposed to high levels during their working lifetimes. The study was conducted in Iowa by the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa and in North Carolina by the Battelle Centers for Public Health Research and Evaluation. The study is directed by the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those who report that they have had an event often delay in changing their clothing or washing following exposure. Among other confessions, those with high levels of exposure say they frequently wash their pesticide-contaminated clothing with the family wash. Washing pesticide-contaminated hands inside the home, storing pesticides within the home and applying pesticides within 50 yards of the well are other practices that should be avoided.

Roger Gold, Texas A&M entomologist, conducted studies while on staff at the University of Nebraska on how best to handle contaminated clothing. "One thing that stood out was it was best to use high-phosphate detergents in hot water. Liquid detergents were better than granular," Gold says.

Here are some additional tips compiled from Extension safety specialists that will help when washing laundry that has been exposed to pesticides:

  • Launder clothing daily when applying pesticide daily.
  • Handle all contaminated clothing with gloves.
  • Discard clothing containing concentrated pesticides.
  • Consider all clothing worn while handling or applying concentrated or diluted pesticides to be contaminated.
  • Prerinse clothing by spraying or hosing outdoors, presoaking in a suitable container or agitating in an automatic washing machine. Pretreat clothes that have a soil-repellent finish.
  • Wash separately from family laundry. Discard clothing if thoroughly saturated with highly toxic pesticide.
  • Use warm or hot water during the wash cycle and at least two cold-water rinses. Use the longest wash cycle, at least 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Use heavy-duty laundry detergent.
  • Wash only a few contaminated garments at a time.
  • Rewash contaminated clothing two or three times if necessary. Multiple launderings remove more of the pesticide from clothing.
  • Clean the washing machine thoroughly after laundering contaminated clothing by running the machine empty through a complete cycle with hot water and detergent.
  • Line dry to avoid contaminating the automatic dryer.
  • Consider keeping a separate machine for work clothes that might be exposed to pesticides.
  •  Have disposable clothes available to wear whenever possible to limit clothing contamination.

Time to Clean House

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Mid-February
RELATED TOPICS: Fertilizer, Farm Safety

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