Depending on the toxicity of the pesticide, large doses may cause varying degrees of illness. An exposure confined to a small area of the body, such as irritation of the eyes, skin, or throat, may result from a small dose. Larger amounts of exposure may well cause problems that are more serious, especially if the pesticide gets into the tissues of the body.
Symptoms of Pesticide Exposure
Symptoms are any abnormal physical conditions that a person sees or feels. They are also ailments detected by examination or laboratory tests that indicate the presence of an injury, disease, or disorder. When a pesticide exposure is serious enough to produce injury, there may be either immediate or delayed appearance of symptoms. Immediate symptoms are those observed soon after exposure. However, some symptoms may not show up for weeks, months, or even years. These delayed symptoms may either come on gradually or appear suddenly. They may be difficult to associate with their cause because of the lapse of time between exposure and observable effect.
Poisoning symptoms vary between different pesticides. The severity of symptoms usually relates to the type and amount of pesticide (dosage) entering the tissues. Common symptoms for many pesticides include skin rashes, headaches, or irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. These types of symptoms usually go away quickly and may be difficult to distinguish from symptoms of common allergies, colds, or flu. Symptoms such as blurred vision, dizziness, extensive perspiration, weakness, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme thirst, and blistered skin indicate a more serious exposure to a more hazardous pesticide.
The risk of an excessive exposure that leads to illness or injury lessens when a pesticide handler uses PPE and follows safe and required handling procedures. Following safe procedures reduces the chance of an accident when a pesticide spills or splashes. Using PPE protects the handler’s body from contact with the pesticide during handling activities and in case of an accident. Washing thoroughly after handling pesticides further reduces exposure consequences.
Personal Protective Equipment
By law, handlers must follow the PPE requirements on the pesticide label. Pesticide labels prescribe PPE required for handlers who mix and load pesticides and often contain separate requirements for handlers applying the pesticides. In addition, California regulations require handlers to wear chemical-resistant gloves and protective eyewear during most handling activities, even if the pesticide label does not prescribe these items. Depending on the pesticide used, there may also be additional state or local PPE requirements that exceed label requirements. See Appendix 4—Minimum Required Personal Protective Equipment on page 81 for detailed information on California’s PPE requirements.
PPE provides protection to the body and work clothing from pesticide exposure. However, PPE is effective only if it fits correctly and if handlers use it properly. Handlers or their employers must clean it after every use and maintain the equipment according to manufacturers’ instructions. In addition, PPE does not provide perfect protection from exposure. Employees still must follow safe handling techniques and take every action to reduce any pesticide exposure. The PPE serves to reduce the amount of exposure, should an employee have an accident or experience an emergency.