Iowans suffer acute poisoning from pesticide use today. This
good safety record is possible because people are learning
more about ways to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.
can enter the body through inhalation or accidental ingestion.
However, the most common and least understood means of poisoning
is through skin absorption. Whether liquid spray or granular,
all forms of pesticide can soil your clothes, putting them
in close contact with your skin where they may be absorbed.
Granules may not stick to fabrics or leave evidence of soiling,
but cotton fabrics may hold their chemical residues.
precautionary statements on the chemical label indicate the
type of protective covering that must be worn to reduce exposure
to pesticides. Usually underclothing, a long-sleeved shirt,
long pants, a hat with a brim, socks, and chemically resistant
gloves and boots are essential. Coveralls, a chemically resistant
apron, face shield, and goggles or respirator may be indicated
for persons who are mixing and loading chemicals.
show that most Iowans wear blue jeans (93 percent) and long-sleeved
shirts (53 percent) for pesticide application. Cotton coveralls
over work clothing will reduce pesticide soiling of clothes
next to the skin, but only a few people (16 percent) wear
of pesticide remain on clothing, even after washing. Careful
laundering techniques, however, can reduce pesticide residue
to extremely small levels, measured in parts per million or
billion. Whether or not trace residues in clothing represent
a health hazard to humans is unknown -- pesticides remain biologically
active in the cloth and can suppress enzymes and kill fruit
flies or cockroaches.
clean clothes daily. If pesticide gets on clothes that are
already soiled or dirty, the pesticide will be more difficult
to remove than from clean clothes.
all clothing heavily soiled with full-strength or concentrated
these laundering practices for all clothing worn around pesticides.
These methods will lessen your exposure to pesticides and leave
the least amount of residue in clothing.
chemically resistant gloves to handle pesticide-soiled clothes.
pesticide-soiled clothing separate from other family clothes
before and during laundering to avoid transfer of residues.
pesticide-soiled clothing daily, and as soon as possible
after wear to maximize removal of chemicals.
or pre-soak in a separate tub, on the line with a garden
hose, or in the pre-rinse cycle of your washer; discard
water used for rinsing or soaking.
tub again with hot or warm water for washing. Use cold water
only for the rinse cycle.
a heavy-duty detergent, preferably phosphate-based or liquid.
not overcrowd the washer; wash only a few items at a time.
the highest water level setting, even for small loads.
the longest wash time cycle -- at least 10 to 12 minutes
-- not a shorter knit cycle. If your washer has a sudsaver
feature, never use it for clothing soiled with pesticides.
possible, hang clothes on the line to dry in the sun. Sun
helps degrade some pesticides.
laundering family clothes, run the washer through a complete
cycle without clothes to rinse pesticide residue out of
your machine. Use hot water and detergent.
or multiple washing before drying helps remove more of the
residue from clothing. After washing, check wet clothes for
visible staining, an unusual odor, or color differences and
repeat the washing -- before clothing is dried. If a second
washing does not remove stains or odor, discard the clothes.
Ammonia has not been shown to help remove residues. Never
use bleach and ammonia in the same wash load; toxic fumes
bleach: A three-hour soak in chlorine bleach solution
may help remove chloropyrifos, but fabrics will be weakened
and color may fade. This has not been shown to be effective
with other pesticides.
softeners: Studies show that fabric softeners neither
help nor hinder residue removal.
sprays: Solvent-based sprays assist removal of oil-based
Salt helps remove paraquat, but not other pesticides. Add
1 cup of table salt to your wash load with regular detergent.
Starch may help prevent pesticides from reaching the skin.
Starch seems to trap pesticide so that both the starch and
pesticide wash away in the next laundering. Starch must
be reapplied after each wash. Heavy starching of lower pantlegs
may offer additional protection without discomfort for the
knit underwear absorbs less than cotton and may help prevent
pesticide penetration to the skin.
and water repellent finishes such as Scotchgard: and Zepel:
help cotton fabrics resist penetration of pesticide sprays,
but also make fabrics more difficult to launder. If you use
these repellents, renew them after every second or third wash.
continue to study protective clothing materials and laundering
procedures. As new information becomes available, suggested
laundering methods may change.
consult the pesticide label. Manufacturers offer many suggestions,
but you must choose the protective clothing, equipment, and
laundry methods required in your situation.
Much Do You Know?
Test your skill with this quick quiz.
should you wash pesticide-soiled clothing?
the end of the pesticide use season
it shows visible soiling or dirt
a daily basis, as soon as possible after you quit work
of the above, especially c.
is okay to wash pesticide-soiled clothes with your family's
regular wash. True or false?
bleach will guarantee removal of all pesticides from farm
clothing. True or false?
amounts of pesticides in clothes are harmful to your health.
from soiled clothing can be absorbed through the skin. True
answers at the end of "What Can You Do?".
Can You Do?
reduce your exposure to pesticides by wearing protective gear
and laundering work clothing properly. Always follow these guidelines
when you work around pesticides:
fresh clothes daily.
precautionary labeling to choose protective gear.
pesticide-soiled clothes separate from your family's wash.
and/or repeat the wash for maximum pesticide removal.
all clothes that have been saturated with full-strength
liquid pesticide concentrate.
2-False; 3-False; 4-c; 5-True.
more help with pesticide clothing safety, check the 1991
Private Pesticide Applicator Study Guide
, PAT-1, available
at your local Extension office. This publication is based on
these and other research articles:
Pesticide Exposure through Textile Cleaning Procedures,
(1988) North Central Regional Research Bulletin #314, available
from North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota
M., (1988) "Dermal Exposure to Pesticides." Journal of
Environmental Health 51 (2):82-84.
J., and H.M. Stahr, (1989) "Pesticide Residues in Clothing:
A Case Study of a Midwestern Farmer's Coverall Contamination."
Journal of Environmental Health 51 (515):273-276.
Publication #: Pm-1265f
Fact Sheet is apart of
a series from the Farm Safe Program, Iowa State University Extension,
Ames, Iowa. Safe Farm promotes health and safety in agriculture.
It is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health, Iowa State University, and a network of groups that
serve Iowa farm workers and their families. Publication date:
Stone, Extension textiles and clothing specialist; Wendy Wintersteen,
Extension entomology associate; edited by Laura Miller, Extension
communications, Iowa State University Extension, Ames, Iowa.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.