Many pesticide labels state gloves should be worn when using the product. While it is a recommended practice to ALWAYS wear gloves when using pesticides, it is completely label-driven. If the label doesn't state the need to wear gloves (in the mixing and loading, application, or clean-up), then technically you don't have to.

But what types of gloves are acceptable?

The new Label Review Manual (see article in this issue) should help companies to state more accurately which gloves should be used. While current labels may state what types are acceptable, they only provide "the type." Most labels don't go that next step and provide details about those gloves including thickness.

Fortunately, most pesticide applicators know cotton and leather gloves are NOT acceptable. But did you know food handler gloves (polyethylene) were acceptable for some products?

A recent study found some interesting facts regarding glove use when applying agricultural products.

First, 92% of the respondents use gloves, even if the label doesn't say they are needed. But 8% never used gloves.

Reusable nitrile gloves (washable) were used by 38% with disposable nitrile used by 28%; thus, 66% use nitrile gloves. Other types used include rubber/latex, reusable neoprene, and polyvinyl chloride. In one part of the study, 9% didn't know what type of gloves they were using.

The surprising part of the study showed that 73% of the applicators indicated that they wear the same glove for multiple products. This is okay if the same glove meets the requirements for the different pesticide products used. That's where the label comes in.

On the other hand, this finding could also suggest the same glove is used for convenience without meeting the label requirement.

It is important to keep in mind that the glove type is based on solvent category, not type of pesticide or task, whether it's mixing and loading, or application of the product.

Based on an analysis of 1,552 pesticide product labels, there are 193 different pesticide products where nitrile gloves are not acceptable (Shaw and Harned, 2013). In fact, there are several herbicides that require either barrier laminate or Viton® gloves. Some of these herbicides can be used by highway departments.

Some other interesting statistics:

• Chemical resistance (49%) followed by fit (15%) and dexterity (13%) were the reasons specific gloves were chosen.

• 37% wear the gloves provided by the employers, though if you are an operator or applicator, it is up to you to follow the label.

While the vast majority of pesticide operators and applicators use gloves, the study concluded that there is a need for additional training on reading and interpreting glove statements on the pesticide label regarding the type(s) of gloves that should be used (particularly regarding the glove requirement for different formulations of the same active ingredient), especially for required tasks such as mixing and loading, and application.

One final thought: The US-EPA suggests a minimum thickness of 14 mils for gloves, especially for non-water solvent products. The thickness is stated on the package. Are your gloves at least that thick???