To Find Proper Personal Protective Equipment For Pesticide Application

On June 04, 2020

To Find Proper Personal Protective Equipment For Pesticide Application

The spread of the COVID-19 virus has created incredible challenges; among them is the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for many industries across the U.S. The agricultural community is no exception. In particular demand are respirators of all kinds, especially N95 respirators. Ongoing discussions of the problem continue among Pesticide Safety Education Programs (PSEP) and experts across the country who are developing guidance articles for dissemination to applicators. Here is what is currently known and being recommended.

The label is the law. All applicators must adhere to all label directions and use the proper PPE when mixing, loading, handling, or applying a pesticide product. These precautions are meant to protect you from harm and avoid unnecessary risks when using a pesticide. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains that those using pesticide products must adhere to all labeling requirements. This includes the use of all PPE mentioned on the label. With a shortage of respirators what is the user of a pesticide product supposed to do?

Inventory your resources and anticipate your needs for the season. Do you have all of the PPE, including respirators required for the products you plan to use and apply? If not, contact suppliers and try to obtain what is needed.

What if you simply cannot find everything you need? You may opt to select alternative products or practices, if required PPE is unavailable. One alternative would be to select a replacement pesticide or fumigation product with labeling that does not require the use of a respirator. In some instances, that is a possibility. A different formulation of the same active ingredient might be available that requires less restrictive PPE or reduced respiratory protection according to the label. Or, an equally effective product with a different active ingredient and unique PPE requirements may be available on the market.

Pesticide dealers may offer assistance in choosing alternate products. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be a tedious process to review labels to find other options. The following extension website provides information on websites and other places to look up pesticide labels, safety data sheets, and related resources: The National Pesticide Information Retrieval System (NPIRS) from Purdue University is available at: The Crop Data Management System (CDMS) which covers mostly agricultural pesticides is available at:

Another option may be to use even more protective gear than what is called for on the label. In place of an N95 respirator, an applicator could choose a half- or full-face respirator. Just remember, selecting the proper cartridges can be tricky. For instance, half- or full-face respirators with an organic vapor cartridge would not be sufficient as a replacement for an N95 respirator without the particulate filters. And, expired cartridges should never be used. Before using any respirator make sure it is clean, in good condition, and working properly. Remember to get fit tested (it’s a requirement). 

Fit testing, training, and medical evaluations are also required even with N95 respirators, so changing to another make or model of respirator would require another fit test. The Penn State Pesticide Education Program offers respirator fit testing, but the program is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. If you cannot find someone within your company who is certified to conduct a fit test and provide training, you may reach out to a local occupational health company to perform this service.

To Complete And Return The Survey Of Farm Conservation Practices By May 15


The deadline for farmers in Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams counties to respond to a survey documenting conservation practices installed on their farms has been extended to May 15, due to challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The survey was mailed to farmers in these four counties in late February. We know that Pennsylvania farmers have done much to improve water quality and soil health. Yet many of the conservation practices that farmers have implemented are not accounted for in tracking progress toward priority water quality goals, including cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. This is especially true where farmers have implemented practices on their own initiative, using their own means to do so. The survey will provide a more complete picture in these four counties of the many conservation practices that have been implemented. This survey will inventory these practices, ensuring that the agricultural community receives the credit it deserves for improving water quality.

“We know farmers also are experiencing changes and disruptions to normal business operations during this unprecedented time as they work to fulfill the ultimate in life-sustaining work — providing us all with an abundant and safe supply of food,” he said. “While many farmers have already completed the survey, we certainly want to give those who haven’t more time to fill out and return the survey.” This will be the last extension we are able to provide, as we will need to move soon into the data analysis, training and farm visit portions of the survey project to stay on track for reporting of these practices for inclusion in the Chesapeake Bay Model.


Responses will be completely confidential and never will be associated with a farmer’s name or location. Questions about the survey can be directed to Matt Royer at


For more information about the survey or to complete it online, visit


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