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Publication #PI-165

Protecting Your Eyes from Pesticide Exposure1

Frederick M. Fishel2

Vision is one of our most important senses, and eyes are very sensitive to chemicals contained in some pesticide formulations. Eyes readily absorb pesticides (ocular exposure); therefore, some product labels require handlers to wear protective eyewear. The statements regarding eye protection and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are generally found in the label's “Precautionary Statements” section (Figure 1).

Figure 1. 

Example of a label's eyewear protection statements


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Some products do not require handlers conducting certain activitie—such as applying diluted pesticides—to use protective eyewear. Labels on such products may indicate, however, protection is necessary for handling concentrates. Other products may require protective eyewear for all uses. A 2013 study reviewing 1,868 product labels for agricultural use concluded that 1,151 labels did not require protective eyewear. Of those that do, 650 labels state “protective eyewear.” The other labels specified a particular type of protective eyewear (Shaw and Harned 2013). Keep in mind that prescription eyeglasses and other eyeglasses do not offer protection from ocular exposure to pesticides.

Some labels will explain in detail the exact type of protective eyewear that should be worn. Satisfactory protective eyewear for handling pesticides generally is of three types:

    • Shielded safety glasses

    • Goggles

    • Full faceshields

Shielded safety glasses (Figure 2) and full faceshields (Figure 3) are good choices in many situations because these protective devices are relatively comfortable, and they do not cause fogging and sweating. They also provide adequate protection.

Figure 2. 

Shielded safety glasses


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

Full faceshield


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Faceshields that are cupped inward, towards the throat, give better protection from splashes than straight faceshields.

Safety goggles are available in several models (Figures 4 and 5) and are appropriate in various situations, including making airblast applications from an open cab, flagging aerial applications, applying fogs and mists indoors, and other enveloped situations.

Figure 4. 

Goggles are available in several styles


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 5. 

Goggles are available in several styles


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Safety goggles that are vented will help protect against fogging. Three variations in venting are available:

      • Open vents for impact protection only

      • Indirect vents for splash protection

      • Non-vented for protection from mists and fumes

Either goggles or shielded safety glasses can be worn with a half-face respirator (Figure 6). Full-face respirators are supplied with their own faceshields, so additional eye protection is not required (Figure 7).

Figure 6. 

Safety goggles worn with a half-face respirator


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 7. 

Full-face respirator provides eye protection


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Pesticide labels that list eye protection in their PPE statements and pertain to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) require that at least one pint of emergency eyeflush water be immediately accessible for each pesticide handler. Eyewashes can be portable in several forms, such as clean water and special formulated solutions (figures 8 and 9). Eyewashes can also be available in a fixed location, such as an eyewash station (Figure 10) in a convenient place.

Figure 8. 

Portable eyewash to meet WPS requirements


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 9. 

Portable eyewash to meet WPS requirements


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 10. 

Plumbed eyewash station


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Because some pesticides are corrosive or cause eye irritation within seconds, consider carrying eyewash with you when handling such pesticides.

Additonal Information

Fishel, F.M. 2006. Worker Protection Standard: Decontamination Supplies. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI153

Fishel, F.M. 2006. Worker Protection Standard: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI156

Fishel, F.M. and O.N. Nesheim. 2007. Pesticide Safety. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/CV108

Fishel, F.M., O.N. Nesheim, and T.W. Dean. 2007. The Worker Protection Standard. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/CV138

Florida Poison Information Center Network: 1-800-222-1222 or http://www.fpicn.org

National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378 or http://npic.orst.edu/

Nesheim, O.N., F.M. Fishel, and M.A. Mossler. 2005. Toxicity of Pesticides. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI008

Shaw, A. and C. Harned. 2013. "Analysis of Personal Protective Equipment Requirements on Labels of Pesticides for Agricultural Use." Journal of Pesticide Safety Education. 15: 17–29. http://maxpond.ext.vt.edu/ojs2/index.php/jpse/article/view/70.

Footnotes

1.

This document is PI-165, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date June 2008. Revised April 2014. Reviewed April 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Frederick Fishel, professor, Department of Agronomy, and director, Pesticide Information Office, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL, 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.