By: Vashti Kelly, Program Manager
It isn’t unheard of to see containers used for mixing pesticides lying in common areas where farmworkers work, take breaks, and eat lunch. Or even empty pesticide containers being re-purposed for carrying water for washing hands or worse for drinking in desperate situations. Understanding the health risks linked to pesticide exposures, these prospects are alarming at best. However, there are hazards related to improper storage and disposal as well. Depending on the chemical properties and pesticide in question, they may be corrosive or flammable.
(above image depicts illegal disposal of pesticide containers)
The United States has stringent regulations when it comes to pesticide application and disposal. Yet, there are many cases pending resolution; where violations of one or both have occurred with detrimental consequences to people, wildlife, and environment. Studies have found exposure to pesticides, such as herbicides, linked to certain cancers, fertility and pregnancy complications, immune system disorders, neurological problems, and congenital birth defects to list a few. Of course, this is what can happen when contamination transpires. The best way to avoid these preventable hazards is through proper use and care, which happens through education.
Never reuse a pesticide container for any purpose, rinsed or not. There are specific regulations on how to dispose of excess pesticides as well as the containers in which they are stored. Requirements for proper cleaning of empty pesticide containers are found in the “Storage and Disposal” section of the label. And, because pesticide labels are legal documents and it is considered a violation of both federal and state laws to not adhere to the directions and restrictions on its labeling. In this section are two commonly accepted instructions for residue removal techniques: triple rinsing and pressure rinsing. Dependent on container type labels also state that, all plastic and metal, containers be rendered unusable by puncturing or crushing and disposed of in sanitary landfills or recycled. This information and more is covered under education for licensure for Pesticide Handling. However, proper disposal does not always take place.
AFOP Health & Safety Programs prides itself on making sure that we are taking the time to educate farmworkers on the dangers associated with pesticides and pesticide exposure. Although, AFOP does not provide pesticide applicator certification, trainers stress the importance of not re-purposing containers or using agricultural grade pesticides for domestic pests. It is a matter of educating farmworkers to not only protect themselves but to minimize any potential hazards that might arise.