Glove selection for working with pesticides

You can reduce the potential risk of pesticide contamination by properly protecting yourself when applying pesticides. About 97 percent of human exposure to pesticides during application of liquid sprays occurs through contact with the skin. That's why all pesticide labels list the minimum required protective clothing and equipment to be worn while mixing, loading and applying the product.Even when the label does not require use of gloves, it is wise to wear them anyway.

Gloves are a critical piece of protective equipment when using pesticides, but not all gloves are created equal.

How do you select gloves suitable for handling pesticides? First, you need waterproof and chemical-resistant gloves, but not all waterproof materials resist chemicals. Glove selection depends on the type of pesticide and the application.

Gloves used for handling pesticides should be unlined and made of butyl, nitrile or neoprene rubber, natural rubber, polyethylene plastics or polyvinyl chloride rather than of cotton, leather, canvas or other absorbent materials. The safety materials are used either individually or in various combinations in commercially available gloves. The most protective glove is a barrier laminate combining two or more materials blended together. Chemical resistance varies with each of these materials. Avoid latex gloves because they do not provide adequate protection and disintegrate rapidly. Garden gloves, medical gloves and household cleaning gloves are also inadequate for pesticide applications.

Glove thickness is described in units of mils (1 mil = 0.001 inch). Gloves range in thickness from 1 to 60 mils. Those most commonly used range from 12 to 22 mils. The general rule is the thicker the glove, the more resistant to tears and punctures, therefore the safer the glove. Gloves do come in sizes or in "one size fits all."

They also come in a variety of lengths and may cover higher than the elbow. Better fitting gloves are not only more comfortable but also safer to use.

Some people choose to wear glove liners inside their protective gloves. This is acceptable as long as the pesticide product labeling doesn't specifically prohibit liner use. Chemical-resistant gloves are not reliably available at garden centers or big box stores. They may be available at your local hardware store, and can also be found through online retailers.

Gloves approved for pesticide safety do not last forever. Chemical resistance decreases over time. Some may only be used once and thrown away. Remember, the label is the a valuable source of safety information and the law. Read it, be safe and wear the appropriate equipment.

This information taken from "Glove Selection for Working with Pesticides," by F.M. Fishel, University of Florida Extension, and "Pesticide Safety: Choosing the Right Gloves" by E. Bauer, C. Ogg an d L. Sandall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, epublic/pages/publicationD.jsp?publicationId=1209.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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