Three hazardous chemicals you need to know about

As farmers, we often use pesticides to protect plants, animals and other crops from harmful pests and diseases.

These pesticides often contain hazardous chemicals that can have serious implications on our short term and long term health if we don’t manage them safely.

Here are three chemicals that are particularly prevalent in pesticides and on farms, and a tip on how you can reduce the risk to you and your farm.

1. Benzene is commonly found in diesel and petrol emissions.  In the farming community, exposure to diesel and petrol exhaust emissions has been identified as an emerging health risk.

How to stay alive and well: Try using safer engines and cleaner fuels – e.g. low emission technology, emission control devices such as particle filters, ultra-low sulphur diesel, compressed natural gas or electricity.

2. Chlordimeform was used extensively up until 1986, particularly by aerial spraying on cotton crops.  It was banned in 1986, after serious health effects were seen in overseas workers who manufactured the pesticide. Worryingly, health effects from working with this chemical can occur up to 30 years after exposure.

How to stay alive and well: If you worked in the cotton industry or other, and think you may be at risk, contact your doctor with information on your past work, take the regular urine tests that may be required and discuss any changes that you may have noticed in your health with your GP.

3. Organophosphate (OP) Various sectors of the farming industry use OP pesticides. Rural work activities that are likely to cause exposure to OP pesticides include aerial crop spraying, pest control operations and grain storage. Symptoms of short term exposure to OPs include headaches, excessive sweating, slurred speech and blurred vision, while long term exposure can cause weakness, anxiety and restlessness.

How to keep alive and well: Always be aware of the chemicals you are using, read the safety data sheets (SDS) and labels for each chemical you use and substitute with less hazardous chemicals where possible.

As an employer or an employee, keep these tips in mind to make sure everyone stays safe on the farm.