Spray laundry and protecting family health
The must-do's of laundering work clothes in spray season
Posted: June 16, 2009
Glen Blahey thinks there's a lesson for farmers spraying crops today in the story of lead foundry workers in years gone by. By wearing their work clothes home, several of the children of these workers developed lead poisoning despite having never knowingly touched or entered a workplace that processed lead.
The lesson, says the provincial farm safety coordinator for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, is that exposure to even trace amounts of toxic materials such as pesticides can carry long-term health implications.
"Wearing clothing that has been contaminated with pesticides or any other chemicals does two things," says Blahey. "It continues to prolong the exposure of the person wearing that clothing to that substance and, secondly, it increases the potential of cross-contamination, in other words having some of the chemical transfer to other surfaces or persons."
Along with the serious safety concerns is the simple importance of dealing with soiled clothing properly to keep peace in the family, in particular with those handling house and laundry chores.
When it comes to protecting themselves and their families, one of the key tools available to farmers is the proper laundering of pesticide-soiled clothing. Here are some "must-do's."
Launder after each use. It's easier to remove pesticides daily than to remove accumulated contamination.
Consider it contaminated. Consider all clothing worn while working with pesticides contaminated, including clothing worn under personal protective equipment. "Protective equipment such as disposable chemical resistant coveralls for pesticide handling and application provide a barrier," says Blahey. "However, it is critical that any clothing worn under the protective equipment still be considered as potentially contaminated."
Separate, separate, separate. Pesticide-soiled clothing must not be laundered with the family wash. Temporarily store soiled clothing intended for laundering in plastic garbage bags or use a laundry hamper or plastic garbage pail designated solely for that purpose. Be sure to handle soiled clothing with unlined, nitrile gloves, washing them thoroughly outside before removing them. Discard any garment saturated with pesticide concentrate.
Also, avoid washing pesticide-soiled clothing in public laundering facilities. Dry cleaning is also not recommended because dry cleaning solvents are recycled and may retain pesticide residues that will contaminate other clothing.
Pre-rinse. Pre-rinse clothing by soaking in water, hosing down out-of-doors, or by using a prewash cycle on the washing machine. If the pre-soak cycle on an automatic washer is used, let the pre-soak water drain then refill with fresh water for detergent washing.
Use hot water, high water, small loads. Use the hottest water setting on your machine and the highest water setting to maximize residue removal in laundering. Do not overfill the machine with clothing. Rinse temperature is not as important. If energy conservation is a concern, choose the hot water wash and cool water rinse.
"Don't put too much clothing in the machine at the same time," says Laurel Aitken, farm safety coordinator for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. "Wash twice – some recommendations say three times – in good hot water using the full water level and a normal cycle set on the longest time. You really need to make sure it's being washed and rinsed really well."
Use heavy-duty detergent. Heavy-duty liquid detergents are very effective in removing oily residues such as emulsifiable concentrate formulations and are not affected by water hardness. Phosphate-powdered detergents are very effective in removing particulate material, such as wettable powder formulations, but are sensitive to hard water. Fabric softener may be used if desired. Bleach may be used, but take care not to mix bleach with ammonia because they react to form a dangerous chlorine gas.
Hang out to dry. Finally, hang the clothing out on a line to dry. "Putting the load through a dryer can contaminate the dryer and increase the chance of contaminating other clothing," says Aitken. "Also, many pesticides break down in sunlight."
Clean washer after use. Run the washing machine through a full cycle with detergent and no clothes to remove any pesticide residues.
Link to resources
There are several fact sheets available on the Web on how to launder pesticide-soiled clothing. Some examples are available on the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development site and the Government of British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands site.
Also, producers should always ask their suppliers to provide them with material safety data sheets (MSDS) for any hazardous products they purchase, says Blahey. "These MSDS's have valuable handling and safety information. They also have a contact phone number for the manufacturer and if the producer has any questions or concerns they should be calling that number."
Sponsored by: Meristem Information Resources Ltd.