Coronavirus: When Ag Chem Labels Require N95 Masks, Will You Have Them?

N95 respirator. Photo: FDA

With the critical need for respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care, there is a potential shortage of PPE, particularly N95 respirators, in the marketplace for agriculture and pesticide applications.

The pesticide label lists the required PPE. See “Wear PPE When Using Pesticides” for more information. Applicators who do not follow the label-specified PPE requirements because of lack of access to a respirator or other PPE put themselves at risk, potentially add to the need for medical care, and are in violation of the label.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made no exemption or relaxation of PPE requirements.

Review Pesticide Labels

Review the labels of products that are key to your agricultural commodities. Some herbicide, fungicide, and insecticide labels require N95 or other types of respirators to protect from exposure.

Remember, all respirators, including N95 filtering face-piece respirators, require fit-testing, training, and medical evaluations. See “Using a Pesticide that Requires a Respirator?” for additional information.

Inventory PPE

Create a list of the PPE you currently have on-hand, including gloves, coveralls, eyewear, and respirators. Carefully assess that you have enough PPE for critical pesticide applications. Extra PPE can be donated to health care workers by contacting your local County Coordinator for Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

What if the Label-Required Respirator is Unavailable?

For pesticide products that require a respirator, look for an alternative product (not requiring a respirator) or management method. There may be a product with the same active ingredient, but the formulation type reduces the need for respiratory protection.

Unfortunately, the only way to query alternative products is to review their labels.  The following websites can be used to search for products registered for use in Iowa:

See also “Pesticide label references available online!” for more information on accessing labels online.

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