Understanding Pesticide Safety – Basic community guidelines

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Pesticides serve as an important component of crop protection schemes. Farmers are always interested to control damaging living organisms before they interfere with the crop economics. A wide range of products including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides provides a time efficient solution to control an array of pests. Pesticides are toxic chemicals and their use must be precautious. The transport, storage, and handling should be done following all the directions that ensure personal and community health safety.

It is an ethical, moral and legal responsibility to use the pesticide according to the health safety standards. The shipment of the pesticides should not be carried along with edibles. Similarly, the public transport option is also not feasible for its transportation. After transportation, the pesticides should not be kept with the stored grains, fertilizers or any other chemical based material vulnerable towards contamination of these chemical. It is also a good practice to place containers away from the reach of children and non-professionals.

Global practice of utilizing protective clothing is recommended. It involves the use of long sleeve shirts, goggles, turban, covered nose and mouth and close boots, which are much safer compared to exposed body. Making the spraying mixture is also a very crucial step and it should be done in an open space, after wearing proper protective clothing. Before spraying, make sure that the tank does not have a leakage problem. Spraying time should preferably be early morning or late evening. During spraying, discharge should be away from the sprayer’s body. After spraying, wash the equipment away from the water channel. After the application of the pesticides, it is good to avoid the entry of humans and domesticated animals in the field.

Avoid using the insecticides on the crops during the flowering phase as it is causing a consistent decline in the population of the honeybees and other pollinators. Fish and domestic animals are also equally vulnerable towards the pesticide exposure due to the runoff and residual toxicity. Pesticides should be applied keeping in view the pre-harvest intervals of the crop. If the crop is intended for export to another country, do check for the maximum residue levels (MRLs) practiced in the importing country.

Pesticides may also cause the phytotoxicity reaction causing the injury to the crops. Limitations are always there with respect to the stage of the crop, environmental conditions and dose of the chemical. It may also be caused due to the expired chemicals. The average chemical formulations should not be used due to the unstable nature. The recommended interval should be followed to avoid insecticide resistance development and residual build up in plant, soil, and environment.

It is unhealthy practice to smoke, eat or drink while using the pesticides as most of the toxic reactions are induced due to inhalation and ingestion. The unsafe application of the pesticides induces the biological reactions on the applicator or anyone who is exposed to the lethal dose. The pesticide toxic reaction includes the difficulty in breathing, general body weakness or fatigue, skin irritation reactions, itching in eyes, upset digestive system, headache, slurred speech, unconsciousness, muscle twitching, and restlessness.

An instant first aid treatment should be provided to the patient with pesticide poisoning. First, take the patient away from the site of application. In case, the patient is failing to breathe, it is a good practice to give artificial respiration. If the patient has not swallowed the poison then mouth to mouth resuscitation protocols should be followed. The eye irritation can be reduced by the continuous splashes of cold water for almost five to seven minutes. Washing of the complete body with soap is also recommended. If the patient vomits randomly then prevent the inhalation by changing body posture. In the case of sweating, cool the patient with sponging. Do not give any juice, milk or drink except water.

On the consumer level, it is advised to follow some safety guidelines too. It is recommended to wash the vegetables and fruits before use to avoid any accidental pesticide poisoning. According to a research by Centre for Science and Environment, washing vegetables and fruits with 2% salt water removes toxic residues of pesticides. Green leafy vegetables especially spinach is high in pesticide residues. Among fruits, apples are comparatively higher in pesticide residues. So, a good washing is essential to the use of fruits and vegetables.

Safe use of pesticides ensures healthy and safe environment. Being an agricultural country, the use of these chemicals is much common in Pakistan. The information about the safe handling and usage should be spread to the village and urban community. Keeping in view all the precautions mentioned, it is therefore concluded that the harmful and toxic action of pesticides can be reduced by following safety guidelines.

The author is Lecturer in Department of Entomology, MNS University of Agriculture Multan and can be reached at fawad.zafar@mnsuam.edu.pk


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Published in: Volume 08 Issue 34

Short Link: http://www.technologytimes.pk/?p=17957