Are pesticides shortening your life?

Do pesticides cause cancer? Is pesticide contamination shortening your life? As a sprayer, farmer or consumer are exposed to toxic pesticides from time to time, either directly or indirectly.

Directly farm chemicals can enter our bodies through ingestion, inhalation or dermal exposure. Indirectly, food consumers ingest high chemical residues present in fresh food. Besides, we can suffer harmful doses of farm chemicals present in the environment from contaminated water, soil or air.

Pesticide contamination can kill. It is manifested in one of following three forms; allergic, acute or chronic reaction.

How can you protect yourself from toxic farm chemicals?

In this post discover tips for protecting yourself from toxic farm chemicals and residues. To learn about your protection, you need to understand toxicity and absorption rates.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies toxicity of farm chemicals in five classes of hazard as shown in the table below. Very toxic chemicals cause the most harm when the substance gets absorbed into one’s body.

The absorption rate is the amount of chemical in contact with the skin that will get into the body. We have varying absorption rates for different body parts. The highest is experienced on the scrotum. The ear canal, forehead and scalp. the abdomen, ball of feet, the palm of head and forearms have a high absorption rate.

  • For consumers, the aim is to limit ingesting fresh farm produce (vegetables and fruits) with high chemical residues above the MRLs.
  • For chemical handlers (sprayers and farmers) the goal is reducing exposure while handling and spraying toxic farm chemicals.

Tips for consumers

Commercial farming uses huge volumes of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics to maximize profits for food growers and suppliers. This exposes consumers to high pesticides, hormones and antibiotic residues in animal and crop foods. To protect yourself and loved ones from this health hazard, you can;

1. Grow your own organic vegetables

Each household should have a kitchen garden whether they live in town or a rural area. The beauty of a backyard garden is that you can grow your food organically cutting on use of toxic farm chemicals. Explore how you can become an urban farmer and peruse on various vegetables you can grow. you can do this in vertical, balcony or rooftop gardens to get enough food for self-consumption and sale to neighbours at a premium price.

2. Buy safe and traceable products only

Unfortunately, food traceability systems in most developing countries are weak. However, there are few leading food wholesalers and retailers who stock safe products. They make sure these are hygienically grown, handled and distributed using Good agricultural practises (GAPs).  A few can allow the consumer to access and trace the products information from “seed to shelf” through a fresh produce traceability system.  For your household’s safety, buy food you can ascertain its source.

Tips for a chemical sprayers and Handlers

To protect yourself as a chemical sprayer or applicator from the challenges of harmful farm chemicals, use appropriate PPEs, use a motorised sprayer and build your capacity by undertaking the latest training;

3. Use quality PPEs

Many applicators understand farm chemicals are harmful. To protect themselves they use inappropriate materials such as motorbike helmets and polythene bags to limit contact with poisonous chemicals. Effective protection requires you to invest in appropriate personal protective equipment (PPEs). Wear the recommended pieces of equipment on the pesticide label. The rule of thumb is to wear much than less. As the toxicity level, rise towards (red band), you should wear more equipment.

Quality chemical spray PPEs are made of PVC, rubber, or polythene such that liquid and chemical substances cannot penetrate to protect your body

Where to buy cheap PPEs?

A quality PPE is durable, unsusceptible to wear and tear and liquid proof. You will find the recommended ones in most agro-shops and stores near you. you might find them stocking PPEs for sale as a package or in different parts such as coveralls alone.

 Another alternative where you can buy cheap quality PPEs is online. You can have them mailed to your address within 21-30 days. you can order them as a full package containing all the image above. Ensure you specify your right fitting size so they can fit for effective protection. 

You can find PPEs with highest ranking and reviews here.

4. Undertake the latest training

The most effective way to protect oneself from harmful farm chemicals is updating yourself with the latest information on crop protection and IPM To do this, buy books on IPM and pesticides practises like the IPM in Practise available from amazon books. You can also subscribe to online courses to learn about the newest developments in this field. This will help you gather information on invasive pests, pesticide resistance, volatile organic compounds, endangered species, and more. Shop for a book or enrol in a course today

5. Buy a motorised sprayer

The knapsack sprayer is the best application equipment of choice among smallholder farmers.  They come in a variety of models, choices and brand names for farmers to choose from. One of the best models is a motorised pump or sprayer that allows handlers to reduce exposure or time in contact with the hazardous substances since they allow for a fast application covering large areas in a short time.  To shop and order one today see the best collection here.

Other options to consider are the hand-held sprayers and the backpack carried knapsack sprayers

Tips for farmers

Farmers hold the greatest responsibility in enabling food safety in our markets. By observing the post-harvest interval (PHI), they cut down consumer’s exposure to excessive residues above the Maximum residual levels (MRLs). In addition, they maintain records and feed information on traceability systems for enhanced safety.

Just like sprayers, farmers are exposed to hazardous chemicals while shopping, handling, storing and handling of excess and expired chemicals and containers.

6. Dos and Don’ts of handling pesticides

Some of dos and don’ts/ tips that farmers can adopt to be safe when handling chemical pesticides are;

  • Buy genuine and registered products from reliable trusted suppliers in your area.
  • Order farm chemicals before spray season set in. Buy only enough quantities for the season to avoid having excess or expired chemicals in your hands.
  • Ensure you buy farm chemicals in their original sealed containers with no evidence of cap or lid tamper. The containers should not be leaking or damaged.
  • While using public transport to ferry chemicals from town to farm in villages, isolate pesticides from food and animal feed to avoid contamination. Ensure you do not place them between passengers.
  • While storing chemicals at home, keep them in original containers. Keep them away from living quarters and keep them away from food and animal feed. The containers should be in a lockable cupboard or box in a dry place away from direct sunlight. Place powdered chemicals on top of liquid-based chemicals. Remember to use the oldest pesticides first.
  • Never re-use the empty pesticide packages as they can contaminate people, animals and the environment. Triple rinse the liquid containers and puncture with a sharp object and squash to the small unusable unit. For boxes and bags, destroy them to make unusable. According to FAO, the correct disposal should be incineration or recycling (do not confuse with cleaning and re-using.)

7. Observe GAPs and practise IPM.

Farmers can use alternative products to control pests, diseases and weeds on their farms. Some options include adopting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and using Bio-pesticides.

  • IPM requires growers to prevent, monitor and intervene in crop production to minimize the use of pesticides through a range of physical, biological and chemical methods.
  • Bio-pesticides encourages the use of natural enemies (predators, parasitoids and pathogens) to suppress or prevent a pest outbreak by weakening or killing insects, microorganisms and weed pests.

The above proposals can reduce our exposure to toxic farm chemicals as handlers, farmers and consumers. Do you have additional suggestions? Leave your comment below.


Agcenture is a Business Development Service provider offering services in business and management consulting, value chain development, research, monitoring & evaluation, donor reporting and project management.

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3 Responses

  1. July 7, 2020

    […] from contaminating animals or food products. For chemical sprayers or handlers, it is a measure for reducing exposure risk to toxic farm chemicals.  You can access cheap quality PPEs online from […]

  2. August 19, 2020

    […] for organic food is rising steadily around the world. It is safer for consumers than those grown on toxic farm inputs. Its retail prices are higher at a lower cost of production and higher returns for farmers. These […]

  3. February 17, 2021

    […] Judicious use of pesticides include right mixing of chemicals, right application, storage and proper disposal of empty containers. […]

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