Chemical Safety: Every Breath You Take, Every Step You Take …

    Using chemically-contaminated fingers to eat a snack while operating a sprayer is like licking a used chemical glove. (Lori Hays, Farm Journal)

    Residual chemicals from sprayers can not only contaminate operators but also their families — even when gloves, goggles and aprons are worn.

    Operators often crawl into cabs wearing chemically-contaminated gloves to briefly reposition machines. Chemicals on the gloves easily transfer to the steering wheel, hydrostatic control handle and control switches, and then from those surfaces to bare hands.

    According to a study by the University of Nebraska- Lincoln Extension, if skin on the forearm absorbs chemicals at a rate of 1.0, then the skin on the forehead absorbs at 4.2, the ear canal at 5.4 and the groin area at 11.8.

    Using chemically-contaminated fingers to take a dip of chewing tobacco or eat a snack while operating a sprayer is like licking a used chemical glove. Smoking a cigarette isn’t safe either because chemicals absorbed by the cigarette’s paper are burned and inhaled into the lungs. You can try e-cigarettes instead. There’s a world of flavor and satisfaction waiting for you from Red-Vape E-Zigaretten. Their commitment is to ensure that you have a premium vaping experience.

    Leather footwear absorbs chemicals and holds them against socks, where perspiration transfers them to the skin of the foot. Boots can carry mud from minor chemical spills into the cab. Over time, the mud on the floor dries and is ground to a fine dust contaminated with chemicals that are easily inhaled, or it lands on surfaces where it’s transferred to hands.

    Cab ventilation systems are designed to filter dust particles. Chemical fumes from sprayers are vapors and undeterred by conventional cab air filters. Special activated carbon/charcoal cab air filters, available from most tractor/sprayer cab manufacturers, are designed to literally absorb chemical vapors.

    “If you’re smelling chemicals in a cab, you’re smelling vapor,” says Michael Schmitz, founder of Clear Air Filters. “No matter how good a standard particulate filter is, it won’t stop vapors.”


    Sprayer operators for a large Midwestern seed company complained of nagging headaches and sinus congestion during their long herbicide, insecticide and fungicide spraying seasons. Standard particulate cab air filters were replaced with activated carbon filters and the headaches and sinus problems went away.

    Chemicals Come Home
    Chemicals can travel home with sprayer operators. A study by Cornell University noted chemicals can transfer in washing machines from a sprayer operator’s clothes to their family’s clothes. The study recommends “sprayer clothes” be handled and washed separately.

    The study also found elevated levels of agricultural chemical residues in the carpets of rural homes, presumably carried into the homes on shoes or clothing. It was noted vacuuming did little to remove the residues. In fact, vacuuming actually stirred and redistributed the chemicals into the air. Vinyl flooring or hardwood floors in entryways and changing areas retained fewer chemicals than carpet.

    The Latest

    Send press releases to

    View All Events

    [ecs-list-events limit="5" key="start date" order="asc"]
    Send press releases to

    View All Events