Planting Safety: Seed coating hazards

Continuing the theme of planting safety, I thought I’d share this article from Farm Progress about some of the hazards of seed coatings. These coatings can drastically improve yields, but some of them, especially some of the insecticides, aren’t good for people.

Click here for the Farm Progress article:

The first step of handling coated seeds safely is to make sure you read the labels of every type of seed before you use it. Even if you have used the same type of seed in previous years, it helps to double check to refresh your memory and to make sure nothing has changed. Different coatings require different levels of protection. Some coatings are safe to handle while others can cause short or long term health problems. Reading and following the instructions on the bag will prevent most problems that can come from handling coated seed.

The main way to avoid exposure to seed coatings is to protect yourself with long sleeves, chemical resistant gloves, and a respirator with an R or P type filter. The type of filter matters because each one contains a different set of layers and chemical treatments designed to neutralize a specific set of chemicals in the environment. Wearing a regular dust mask can improve comfort levels, but it won’t be able to filter out the free floating molecules that aren’t stuck to the larger pieces of dust.

Also, be careful how you deal with clothing that has been worn to handle seed. The dust and residue really sticks in clothing, so if you go from the field to the house you’re bringing all of that in with you and then it sticks around in your house. I have a classmate that studies secondary exposures to agricultural chemicals and unless everyone who handles chemicals changes and washes up every time they come in the house, she is able to detect them everywhere, including cooking surfaces, clothing, furniture, kids’ toys…Ideally if you can rinse your gloves outside before you take them off then have a way to change and take a shower before you go back in the house that’s best, but even changing into a different set of clothes in the mudroom or garage has a huge impact on the amount of residue being dragged in. Also, if you don’t do so already, make sure that outdoor clothes get washed separately from indoor clothes. Washing helps a lot, but short of a professional cleaning it’s impossible to get all of the residue out and anything that gets put in the same load winds up with some of the residue.

The other main method of reducing exposure is equipment maintenance. Well-maintained planters reduce the amount of dust that gets rubbed off of the seeds (which can be good for the seed too) and the less you need to stop and make repairs or adjustments, the less you’re exposed.

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