The best ways to protect you and your family from pesticide exposures is to follow an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy, which focuses on eliminating the need for pesticides in and around the home and using pesticides only when other approaches fail. For example, removing crumbs and food sources that attract ants reduces the need for pesticides to kill ants. Parents should ask officials at the public schools and child care centers their children attend about pesticide use and encourage IPM to reduce exposures. There are numerous measures individuals, including farmworkers, can take to reduce their exposures to pesticides ranging from washing all produce before eating it and wearing protective clothing while at work or applying a pesticide at home.
To reduce possible pesticide exposures to you and your family:
- Avoid using pesticides in and around the home, especially around pregnant women, babies and children, and those of reproductive age, including men.
- Control weeds without using herbicides.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables, including organic produce, before eating.
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently with plain soap and water.
- Reduce consumption of animal fat.
- Leave your shoes outside the home since they can carry harmful chemicals and bacteria into the home.
- Use a door mat.
- Dust with a moist cloth, clean floors with a moist mop and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Use a HEPA air purifier.
- Test well water for harmful substances and use a water filtration system that removes chemicals.
Q: How can reading a pesticide label before buying or using a product at home help reduce your exposure?
A: Reading the label helps you buy the right product for the problem and provides information on how to use and store the product safely. It’s important to follow pesticide label instructions, including those for disinfectants like bleach and other cleaners and products used to control insect infestations, weeds and fleas on pets. Most pesticide labels have a special word in capital letters on the front of the label that tells you the acute health hazard, including “danger,” “warning” or “caution.” If the label does not have one of these words, it means the pesticide is less likely to harm you. However, all pesticides should be handled carefully. More information is posted at: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/factshts/read2.pdf
Q: How does integrated pest management (IPM) reduce exposure to agricultural pesticides?
A: Both conventional and organic farmers use IPM, a strategy that relies on monitoring, ground rotation, modifying irrigation practices, and supporting natural pest enemies and other non-chemical means to help prevent and treat pest problems. IPM focuses on long-term pest prevention and uses pesticides only when other approaches fail.
Q: Does IPM also work at home to reduce pesticide use?
A: Yes. IPM can be used to manage all kinds of pests anywhere – in urban, agricultural and wild or natural areas. Use an IPM approach to reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides in and around the home. This strategy includes removing crumbs and other food sources that attract ants, fixing leaky plumbing, and sealing cracks and crevices with caulk so pests can’t get into the home. More information is posted at: http://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/WhatIsIPM/
Q: What are schools doing to reduce the use of pesticides to control rodents, ants, weeds and other pests and to protect children from unsanitary conditions?
A: The California Healthy Schools Act, enacted in 2000, is a right-to-know law that provides parents and staff with information about pesticide use at public schools and child care centers and encourages IPM. The Healthy Schools Act requires schools to:
- Identify an IPM coordinator.
- Report annually to CDPR all pesticides applied by school staff.
- Create an IPM plan that explains how pests are managed by each school district.
- Provide annual written notification to all parents and staff listing the pesticide products expected to be applied during the school year.
- Create a registry of parents and staff who want to be notified 72 hours before every pesticide application.
- Post warning signs with details about when, where and why a pesticide application is scheduled around the treatment area 24 hours before the application and remain posted for 72 hours after it’s complete. More information about the Healthy Schools Act is posted at: http://apps.cdpr.ca.gov/schoolipm/
Q: What measures are taken to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure?
A: There are numerous federal, state and local regulations designed to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure that address entry restrictions, worker hygiene and other precautions. Pesticide exposure can occur from spray drift or contact with treated plants, soil or water. Farmworkers should:
- Comply with warning signs posted on agricultural fields that have been treated with pesticides.
- Wear gloves while applying pesticides, and always wash hands before eating, drinking, smoking or going to the bathroom.
- Wash clothes that have pesticides on them, including underwear.
- Shake off pesticide powder, granules or loose dirt on clothes before leaving work, paying special attention to cuffs and pockets.
- Keep clothes with pesticides on them in closed plastic bags until they are ready for washing. The bags should be kept outside the home and away from children and pets.
More pesticide safety information for farmworkers is posted at: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/whs/psisenglish.htm
Q: What is Monterey County doing to enhance farmworker safety?
A: In August 2016, the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, the Farmworker Advisory Committee and Center for Community Advocacy announced a pilot program aimed at providing additional pesticide safety protections for farmworkers. Working with leading growers, the program enhances worker notification through warning signs when pesticides are used in the fields. Currently, regulations for posting pesticide warning signs do not require information indicating the date or time when it is safe for farmworkers to re-enter the fields. The pilot program includes the addition of one sign that will be prominently marked and located at a point of entry. The signage includes the date and time that the law allows workers to safely re-enter the field. Only the grower or his or her officially designated representative may remove the signs after first showing the crew leader proof that the re-entry restrictions have expired. Additionally, up to 50,000 farmworkers in Monterey County will receive information cards (in Spanish and similar to business cards) advising them to call the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office if they suspect violations of safety rules. The cards also advise employers that it is illegal to retaliate against farmworkers who seek the help of the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.