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Wearable Technology Lab 
(Univ. of Minnesota)

 3D Body Scanning 
(Cornell University)

Firefighter Protection
(Cornell University)

(Cornell University) 

 Pesticide Protection - Protective Clothing

Personal protective equipment provides a barrier between you and the pesticides you use. Always wear the required garments as stated on the pesticide label.


General Information

QUESTION: What is "personal protective equipment"?

ANSWER: Personal protective equipment is any item developed, which specifically to provide the wearer with some degree of protection against pesticides. The term is abbreviated as PPE and includes coveralls, gloves, boots, aprons, sleeve guards, hats, eyewear, and respirators. Ordinary work clothing also provides protection but is not called PPE.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Coveralls, Gloves, and Other Skin Protection.

QUESTION: What is the difference between permeation and penetration of pesticides through fabric?

ANSWER: Permeation is when pesticides pass through the material itself. Penetration is when pesticides pass through spaces between the fibers or holes in the material.

QUESTION: What is the meaning of "chemical resistance?"

ANSWER: Chemical-resistant materials prevent the passage of pesticide for the duration of the task. A material's chemical resistance depends on the exposure time, the exposure situation, and the chemical properties of the pesticide product.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Choosing Chemical Resistant PPE.

QUESTION: What is the EPA Chemical Resistance Category Selection Chart and how is it used?

ANSWER: If the pesticide label specifies a chemical resistant category, locate that category in the left column of the chart.
Read across the chart to find the PPE for your situation.


For use when PPE section on pesticide label lists a chemical resistance category

Selection Category Listed On Pesticide Label



Barrier Laminate

Butyl Rubber
> or = 14 mils

Nitrile Rubber
> or = 14 mils

Neoprene Rubber
> or = 14 mils

Natural Rubber
> or = 14 mils


Ployvinyl Chloride (PVC)
> or = 14 mils

> or = 14 mils












high slight slight none slight slight slight



high high high moderate moderate high high



high moderate moderate none none none slight



slight high high slight none moderate high



high high moderate slight none slight high



slight slight slight none none none high



slight slight slight none none none high

*(dry and water-based formulations)

QUESTION: Should I wear additional protective garments during mixing and loading?

ANSWER: Yes, aprons, sleeve guards, protective eyewear, gloves, boots, and respirators provide additional protection during these high risks procedures. Check the human hazard warnings on the pesticide label for detailed instructions.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Clothing Layers for Added Protection.

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QUESTION: How often should I wash my contaminated cotton/polyester coverall?

ANSWER: All clothing worn when applying pesticides must be washed after each wearing.

QUESTION: Is it OK to wash clothing soiled with pesticides in my home washer?

ANSWER: Yes, but do not wash your pesticide-contaminated clothing with the family laundry. Wash pesticide-contaminated clothing in a separate load. Then clean the washer by running one complete cycle with water and detergent but no clothing.

QUESTION: Does it matter if I have a lot of dirt on my pesticide clothes?

ANSWER: Dirt can trap the pesticides making them more difficult to remove. If your clothes are very dirty, you can pre-rinse the garments to remove the extra dirt, pre-treat the dirty areas with extra detergent or a laundry aid, or simply wash the garments twice.

QUESTION: Can I dry my washed pesticide clothing in the dryer?

ANSWER: If possible, allow garments to air dry outdoors. Using the clothes dryer is acceptable, but some dryer parts may become contaminated with pesticides over time.

QUESTION: What is the recommended way to launder non-chemical-resistant PPE?

ANSWER: Tips for Laundering Pesticide-Contaminated Clothing.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Inspecting, Maintaining, and Replacing PPE or What to Do When Clothes Are Soiled

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QUESTION: Does any PPE allow ease of movement?

ANSWER: Increased mobility can be achieved by selecting a material that moves with the body or by using a garment design that promotes movement. In PPE, the materials are limited by their ability to act as a pesticide barrier. If a choice exists, choose less bulky fabrics and wear undergarments that fit well and do not interfere with the protective clothing. Some design features to watch for are: raglan sleeves, elastic waists and wrists, pleats, panels of fabric across the shoulders, and gussets in the underarm and crotch areas. Be certain to use the size that fits best, a too-large garment can be as restrictive as a too-small garment.

QUESTION: What fibers and garments are recommended for hot weather?

ANSWER: Wear loose clothing. If a choice exists, wear a coverall of woven instead of nonwoven fabric. Select100 percent cotton over cotton/polyester blends. A cotton undershirt can help absorb perspiration. Consider a two-piece suit instead of a one-piece suit. Replace the full-body coverall for mixing/loading with a frontal apron and sleeve guards or a sleeved apron that is open in back. In addition, multi-layered fabrics and film-coated fabrics are available that offer some breathability while protecting against pesticides labeled CAUTION.

QUESTION: What are the symptoms of heat stress?

ANSWER: PPE can contribute to heat stress when worn under hot and humid conditions. Signs and symptoms of heat stress include: fatigue, headache, nausea, chills, dizziness, thirst, loss of coordination, and altered behavior.

QUESTION: How can heat stress be avoided?

ANSWER: Avoid heat stress by adjusting gradually to working in the heat. Drink plenty of water. Take regular breaks in the shade. Avoid working in the noonday sun by scheduling work for cooler times of the day. Use special cooling devices such as vests and headbands.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Avoiding Heat Stress.

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QUESTION: Is it OK to wear old work clothes when applying pesticides instead of buying a new coverall?

ANSWER: If the label recommends long pants and long-sleeved shirt, you can wear those work clothes. However, tightly woven, heavyweight fabric is more protective than worn, threadbare fabric. Thus, you should not wear clothes that have holes or that are worn thin.

QUESTION: Can I wear a coverall even though the pesticide label requires a long-sleeved shirt and long pants?

ANSWER: Yes, you can wear more protection than is required by the pesticide label but you may not wear less.

QUESTION: What is Tyvek?

ANSWER: Tyvek, by DuPont, is an uncoated nonwoven fabric of 100 percent spunbonded polyethylene.

QUESTION: Will uncoated nonwoven fabrics protect me from liquid pesticides?

ANSWER: No, uncoated nonwoven fabrics will not protect the wearer against spills, sprays, or mists and are not recommeneded for use with liquid pesticides.

QUESTION: What coverall fabrics are waterproof?

ANSWER: Fabrics coated with polyvinylchloride (PVC), butyl, neoprene will protect against liquid pesticides.

QUESTION: How long can I wear a single-use or "disposable" garment?

ANSWER: Single use coveralls such as Tyvek are intended for 8 hours of use before discarding.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Coveralls, Gloves, and Other Skin Protection or Wear Coveralls and Aprons or Cover Up with Coveralls and Aprons

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QUESTION: Are safety glasses approved for use with pesticide?

ANSWER: Yes, safety glasses can be worn for eye protection if the pesticide label requires Òprotective eyewear" but does not specify a particular type of eyewear. Safety glasses MUST have brow and side shields.

QUESTION: What other types of protective eyewear are available?

ANSWER: In addition to safety glasses, goggles, face shields, full-face air-purifying respirators, and air-supplied respirators protect the eyes.

QUESTION: How can fogging of eyewear be controlled?

ANSWER: Eye protection is available with fog-resistant coatings.

QUESTION: Should contact lenses be worn when working with pesticides?

ANSWER: No. Pesticide users who need corrective lenses should wear eyeglasses under protective eyewear.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Protective Eyewear.

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QUESTION: Can I wear my regular shoes when applying pesticides?

ANSWER: Some pesticide labels allow shoes. However, canvas, cloth, and leather are difficult or impossible to clean adequately. Consider using chemical-resistant footwear when applying pesticides.

QUESTION: Do rubber or plastic boots have to be a certain thickness?

ANSWER: Footwear made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or rubber (butyl, nitrile, neoprene, or latex) must be at least 14 mils thick.

QUESTION: How often should boots be replaced?

ANSWER: Research has not identified a definite replacement schedule because use and working conditions vary widely. Research has shown that pesticides are absorbed and held by rubber. Most educators recommend replacing boots annually.

QUESTION: Do booties and shoe covers meet the pesticide label requirements?

ANSWER: Yes, these are a good choice when the label requires "shoes and socks." They are also acceptable when the material matches the label language. For example, if the label suggests natural rubber gloves, then latex booties are acceptable. If the label demands "chemical-resistant footwear," check the EPA Chemical-Resistant chart for duration of use and suggestions of materials.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Coveralls, Gloves, and Other Skin Protection.

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QUESTION:  Why are protective gloves needed?

ANSWER:  Hands are often more heavily contaminated than any part of the body during pesticide handling and application operations.  You can help minimize your exposure to pesticides by always wearing waterproof or chemical resistant gloves as required by pesticide labels.

QUESTION:  Are all "rubber" gloves alike?

ANSWER:  No. "Rubber" is a general term that can apply to many glove materials. Gloves suitable for use with pesticides may be butyl, natural latex, neoprene, or nitrite.   Pesticide labels that require chemical resistant gloves will show the letter (A - H) of the category of pesticide it is. Using the EPA Chemical Resistance Category Chart, you can find which glove material is recommended.

QUESTION:  Which materials offer most chemical resistance?

ANSWER:  In general, nitrile, neoprene, butyl and barrier laminate offer better chemical resistance than natural latex, which is considered only waterproof.  The most chemical resistant glove materials are Viton or barrier laminate, but even these have their limits.   Barrier laminate gloves are considered single-use gloves and should be replaced daily.

QUESTION:  How thick should gloves be?

ANSWER:  For most materials, thicker gloves offer greater protection.  But, thicker gloves may interfere with finger movement.  For most chemical resistant gloves thickness is measured in mil.  Disposable gloves for one-time use may be 6 or 8 mil thick.   Reusable gloves are usually 15 to 22 mil thick or more.

QUESTION: Can glove thickness vary with the glove material?

ANSWER: Yes.  Some glove materials, such as barrier laminates, are very thin. Their chemical composition makes up for the difference in thickness and they are considered single use or disposable.

QUESTION:  How do I know what size glove I wear?

ANSWER:  Measure your hand around the palm and back in inches.  Glove size corresponds to the number of inches your hand measures.  If glove sizes are not measured in inches, here are the common equivalents in words:
5-7 inches = extra small
7-8 inches = small
8-9 inches = medium
9-10 inches = large
10-12 inches = extra large

QUESTION:  How long should gloves be?

ANSWER:  Gloves should fit up over your sleeve cuff and are usually at least 12 inches long. However, you can get gloves that are 18 or 31 inches long if you need greater arm protection.  Glove length is measured from the tip of the middle finger to the edge at the open end of the glove.

QUESTION:  Is it legal to wear glove liners under chemical-resistant gloves?

ANSWER:  Yes. As of November, 2004, the USEPA revised the Worker Protection Standard to allow workers to wear glove liners, defined as separate glove-like hand coverings made of lightweight material, with or without fingers. These liners may not be longer than the chemical-resistant glove so that they do not extend outside of the glove. Most importantly, the liners must be disposed of after 10 hours of use, or at the end of a 24 hours period, whichever comes first.

QUESTION:  Should gloves go over or under the cuffs of my sleeves?

ANSWER:  It depends on what you are doing.  In most cases gloves will be worn over the cuffs of sleeves.  However, if you are in a drenching downpour of chemical spray, with your hands working down low, you may want gloves under your cuffs so pesticide is not funneled off your shirt or coveralls into them.  This is where common sense counts.

QUESTION:  How do I judge when to get new gloves?

ANSWER:  If a glove leaks or shows any evidence of change in appearance or texture after use, dispose of it.  You should not exceed a glove material's advertised breakthrough time, but breakthrough times are often unknown for formulated agricultural chemicals and gloves that you may be using. You might want to discard gloves after 8 hours continuous contact with a chemical.  Again, common sense has to rule, depending on your task and the toxicity of the chemical you are using.  Just don't push your luck until the glove leaks and you get contaminated.

QUESTION:  What if I need to have gloves on only for a short time one day, can I wear them again?

ANSWER:  If your contact time is very short, but repeated, then your total contact time may be over several days.   In this case, how careful you are in getting them on and off and what you do with the gloves between wearings is important to prevent them from becoming contaminated on the inside. Once contaminated inside, they are hardly fit to be used again.

QUESTION:  What should I do to discard gloves?

ANSWER:  Disposal rules vary depending on where you live. If gloves are contaminated, cut off the fingers so no one else will use them because they may not show contamination.  You may be able to dispose of them with household wastes, or they may fall under your state's hazardous waste disposal regulations.  Ask your local Extension Office or Pesticide Applicator Training personnel about the regulations in your area.

QUESTION:  How can I cleanup gloves?

ANSWER:  Wash your hands under running water before you take off your gloves if possible.   This will flush off some of the outside contamination. Research has shown that contamination levels may be reduced by washing gloves with heavy duty laundry detergent and water, but the wash processes studied did not remove all contamination and the success of the procedure varied with the pesticide and the glove material.  New gloves don't cost much.

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Head Coverings

QUESTION:  What should I wear on my head when I work outside farming or in the garden?

ANSWER:  A hat with a brim offers more shade or sun protection for your neck, ears, nose, and face than a common baseball cap. Brim style hats are available in a variety of materials ranging from those commonly called "straw" to the heavy wool felt found in cowboy hats.

QUESTION: How does my work affect my choice of headgear?

ANSWER:  Assuming you work outdoors in the sun, your headgear should offer sun protection to prevent sunburn that can lead to skin cancer. If you are working in a construction job, a HARD HAT will be required to protect you from falling objects or accidental blows to the head. If you are working with certain pesticides, the headgear required will be specified on the pesticide label under the precautionary statements. Some low toxicity herbicides do not mention headgear on the label and any comfortable hat with a brim for sun protection would be appropriate. The kind of headgear you need also may depend on the equipment being used to apply the pesticide. If you are using an air-blast sprayer, you will need a chemical and/or water resistant hood because you will get contaminated with the fine mist from the spray application. If you are using a boom sprayer on a tractor with a closed cab with a low-toxicity pesticide with no label requirement regarding head gear, you may wear any hat that offers comfort and sun protection.

QUESTION:  What does the EPA Worker Protection Standard for Agriculture say about headgear for agricultural pesticide applications?

ANSWER:  Headgear is an important part of Personal Protective Equipment. (PPE). Chemical-resistant headgear is defined as "a chemical-resistant hood or chemical-resistant hat with a wide brim." Chemical resistant means that it allows no measurable amount of the pesticide being used to move through the material during use. A handler may omit some of the PPE required if working in a closed system or an enclosed cab. See pp. 85-87 EPA's The Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides-- How to Comply manual. EPA 7325-B 93-001, July 1993.

QUESTION:  If my hat gets greasy, dusty, and dirty, what should I do?

ANSWER:  Get a new one. Few hats survive machine washing with their brims and shape in tact. If your hat was a "promotional hat" from a company; throw it away and get another.

QUESTION: Is it okay to wash my baseball cap that I've worn in the field farming in the dishwasher using one of those plastic frames that I've seen at discount stores to hold its shape?

ANSWER:  No. Dust from farming may contain pesticide residues that could contaminate your dishwasher and subsequent loads of dishes. Dishwashers generally retain a pool of water from one load to the next to keep gaskets, etc. from drying out. What you rinse off the hat today, you could deposit on your dishes tomorrow.

QUESTION:  What sorts of headgear are essential for safety in sports and leisure activities?

ANSWER:  Children and adults should wear crash helmets for riding bicycles, motor scooters, or motorcycles. Brain injury from accidents may be prevented or be less severe if appropriate head protection is worn. Football, baseball, and other sports require helmets to protect from head injury as well. Wearing protection is not being a "sissy," it is just using your head for more than to hold a hat!

QUESTION:  Do some hat materials offer more sun protection than others?

ANSWER:  Some companies market materials that are advertised to block ultra-violet rays of the sun. Solarweave¬ is an example. ASTM has a committee currently working on developing a standard for rating fabrics on the degree of sun protection they offer. In the meantime, use your common sense. If the fabric is of such an open weave that the sun shines through, it won't be much help in preventing sunburn. On the other hand, if the material provides complete shade it will be more protective, no matter what it is made of.

QUESTION: Are there other safety concerns related to hats?

ANSWER:  Yes. Cords on hats to hold them on have to be managed so they don't get caught in moving equipment. Brims, flaps, and panels to shade the neck must not block vision that could cause a collision.

QUESTION:  Is there one hat style that is appropriate for most activities?

ANSWER:  Probably not. A good hat for sun protection might collapse in the rain. Hats and headgear must be selected with the specific activity and likely hazard in mind.

QUESTION:   If I pay a lot, can I be sure of getting a safe hat?

ANSWER:   Probably not. Hats in any price range may be poorly designed. In selecting a hat, you need to put on your thinking cap.

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QUESTION: What government agency tests respirators?

ANSWER: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Current standards were established in 1995 and are known as 42 CFR Part 84.

QUESTION: How do the 42 CFR Part 84 standards differ from the old 30 CFR Part II standards?

ANSWER: The 42 CFR Part 84 standards require better resistance to oil and better removal of small particles.

QUESTION: When will the respirators with the new standards be available?

As of July 1998, the manufacturers of Part II respirators stopped. New respirators will appear on the market as the old stock is used up.

QUESTION: Can I still use a dust/mist respirator?

ANSWER: The term "dust/mist" has been replaced with "filtering face-piece." It may be designated TC-84A. You may still use the dust/mist respirators if you are using a pesticide whose labels allow it.

QUESTION: How can I obtain a good respirator fit if I have a mustache?

ANSWER: Powered air-purifying respirators are ideal for persons with facial hair because they do not have to form a seal on the face. Other types of respirators will not provide sufficient protection.

For more information, click Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Respirators.

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