Give your hands a hand

GREENFIELD — April 22 marked the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Many of us might even remember the excitement of that first Earth Day all the way back in the spring of 1970.

For both those who can remember and those who have no recollection of that first observance, it is a good time to not only pause to think of the impact we as individuals and as a society have on the environment but also to celebrate the many accomplishments that have been made since the creation of Earth Day.

The Hancock County Purdue Extension Office, in conjunction with the Hancock County Solid Waste Management District, chose to observe the milestone with a reminder of how we can reduce the hazards of pesticides to us as applicators through the simple use of gloves during mixing and applying toxic products.

Whether you are a farmer or home gardener, whether you use synthetic or organic pesticides, the right gloves are essential to your safety since the highest percentage of pesticide exposure occurs through the skin.

Chemical-resistant gloves are one of the most important pieces of personal protective equipment to reduce pesticide exposure.

While most pesticide labels have minimum requirements for personal protective clothing and equipment, even when the label does not require their use, chemical-resistant gloves should be worn when handling these products, especially in their concentrated forms.

Glove selection depends on the type of pesticide and the application. In general, unlined, chemical-resistant gloves made of neoprene, butyl, or nitrile rubber are best.

These materials provide good protection under most conditions, are durable and are affordable.

Note that garden gloves, medical gloves and household latex cleaning gloves, even if “waterproof,” are inadequate and are not recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency for use with pesticides. It is important to be sure you use gloves specified as “chemical resistant.”

The EPA has developed a rating chart defining chemical resistance of various materials used in glove construction. A chemical resistance category (designated with letters A-H) may be listed on the label. It is based on the solvents in pesticides rather than the pesticides themselves.

Proper glove fit is essential. Poorly fitting gloves can complicate your ability to apply pesticides correctly. Gloves that are too tight will be uncomfortable and may result in breakage, allowing pesticides to penetrate. Gloves that are too large can slide on the hands and potentially allow pesticide to run down into the gloves and onto your skin. Handling equipment also becomes more difficult when you can’t sufficiently grip it, increasing the chance for mistakes.

The thickness of the material in chemical-resistant gloves can affect their lifespan, susceptibility to tears, abrasions and general wear.

Concentrated pesticide will wear out gloves much faster and decrease their lifespan much more quickly than diluted pesticides.

If a concentrated pesticide for mixing and loading gets on your gloves, rinse them immediately before continuing. Thorough washing and removal, as outlined below, can then be done after finishing the job.

Glove lifespan is much longer when using a diluted pesticide than a concentrated one.

Under normal circumstances, gloves should be worn over long sleeves to prevent pesticides from running under the gloves. If working above your head, roll the glove tops into a cuff to prevent pesticides from running down the gloves and onto your forearms.

After finishing a pesticide application and while still wearing them, reusable gloves should be washed with soap and warm water; once gloves are removed, hands should then be similarly washed, particularly before eating, smoking or using the toilet.

Hang the reusable gloves until dry, but do not put them in the washing machine or dryer.

Gloves, as well as other personal protective equipment, should be stored in a clean environment away from direct sunlight or temperature extremes separately from pesticides to prevent accidental contamination. Used gloves should not be stored where they could be accessed by children or pets.

This simple procedure will ensure that you do not transfer pesticide residue from your hands into your home, vehicle or other areas where it could potentially expose you, your family, or other people or animals to pesticides.

Reusable gloves should be checked before each pesticide application for leaks and wear. Filling the gloves with water and looking for any holes or tears is recommended.

After sufficient use or extended storage, glove material can become brittle and less impervious to chemicals.

Regardless of thickness, any glove should be discarded according to the pesticide label if it becomes torn, punctured or otherwise damaged or has significant wear and be replaced with new ones.

By following the label and properly using chemical-resistant gloves when applying pesticides, you will be able to control pests safely and effectively while protecting yourself, your family, other people, animals and the environment.

A sample pair of reusable pesticide resistant nitrile gloves will be available at no cost until the supply is exhausted by stopping in the Purdue Extension office at 802 N. Apple St. in Greenfield. One sample per farmer or gardener.