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  • Writer's pictureMATRIX PMO

CHEMICAL EXPOSURE: Contact Points and Preventative Steps

In the pesticide industry, the definition of “exposure” means getting a pesticide or herbicide on the skin or in the body. How serious the hazard is depends on two things:

  • The length of exposure (how long the chemical is left on the body)

  • The toxicity of the chemical



Studies in chemical exposure show that 95% of exposure will be on the skin. Some areas of the body are more absorptive than others. The most absorptive skin on the body is around the genital area. If you have to take a restroom break during spraying or when mixing, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water first. Other areas of the body that are highly absorptive is the scalp, forehead and ears. Be aware of any cuts or abrasions on the skin that could come in contact with any chemical.


Oral exposure most often occurs when residue is passed from the hands to food being consumed. It can also occur while taking a smoke break. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before handling a cigarette or eating. Spray on calm days to prevent over-spray from blowing into your mouth.


Inhalation exposure is most likely to occur in poorly ventilated areas or from breathing in overspray. If inside, open windows to create air circulation. Do not turn on the central air or fumes could be transported to other rooms. If outside, be aware of wind conditions. The wind can catch the spray and blow it into your face.


The eyes will easily absorb certain chemicals and should be protected. Ocular exposure is most likely to occur from a splash during mixing or from spray being blown into the face. Wear goggles or a face shield to prevent this from happening.


All chemical products will contain instructions about personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn. However, the label will only list the minimal amount of clothing required to keep you safe. You can always wear more protection, but you cannot wear less than what the label prescribes. In fact, it is a legal requirement.

The following list contains some common PPE items listed on the label. While some herbicides may only require the first three, other types require more. It is not a bad idea to wear more anyway, so having the all PPE items available is a safe practice.

  • Long sleeve shirt

  • Long pants that reach the shoes

  • Goggles

  • Shoes, preferably chemical resistant shoes or boots

  • Chemical resistant gloves

Additional clothing you may want to consider

  • Hat

  • Face shield

  • Dust mask for powder or dust

  • Disposable jump suit

  • Chemical proof apron when mixing chemicals



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