We are in the middle of the 2012 planting season with most of the corn planted and quite a few soybeans to go. We have received some significant rainfall that, while delaying planting, has really benefited area farms that have been in a drought since last July. But while the planting season brings a sense of rushing to get the crop in the ground, it is important to take the time to take care of ourselves and get plenty of rest and eat regularly. Along with this comes a commitment to take care of our health by working carefully with pesticides.
Most all of the corn seed and a significant portion of the soybean seed planted this year will have been treated with at least a fungicide, if not also an insecticide. When working with treated seed, it is important to keep in mind that you are working with not just seed but also a pesticide. It is in your best interest to take proper precautions for your future health to reduce your risk of pesticide exposure.
Although growers may be more familiar with checking an herbicide or insecticide label for the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear when handling a product, every bag of treated seed will also be labeled with the proper PPE to be worn when handling treated seed. Wearing the appropriate PPE will help reduce or prevent pesticide exposure when working with a pesticide or seed that is treated with a pesticide. PPE requirements can vary depending on the products used, but will typically include specifics about the type of clothing to be worn when handling treated seed. Products with lower toxicity, for example, will require more minimal and/or general PPE compared to products with a higher toxicity.
It is important to note that exposure through the skin is the most common route of entry by pesticides - 97 percent of all pesticides exposures occur through the skin. To reduce potential exposure through the skin, several commonly used seed treatment labels include language that a "long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes and socks" are to be worn when handling treated seed. Check the seed bag label (or seed tag) for the specific PPE requirements of the treatments used on your seed.
Many seed bag labels also state that chemical-resistant gloves are to be worn when handling treated seed. Although wearing gloves can dramatically decrease the potential for pesticide exposure, glove use among growers is unfortunately not 100 percent when working with pesticides. For example, when attendees at the Private Pesticide Applicator training sessions were asked about glove use when handling pesticides, 53 percent said they wore gloves all of the time while 31 percent indicted that they wore gloves most of the time. Also note that cloth gloves do not provide protection from pesticide exposure and leather gloves are not appropriate either as they cannot be properly cleaned. The bottom line is to check the seed label to see what PPE you should wear when working with treated seed, and do what you can to reduce your exposure to the pesticides used on your farm.