What to Do About Lack of Respirators for Pesticide Applicators

Ernie NeffPesticides, Regulation


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a statement recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the availability of respirators required when applying agricultural pesticides. The statement offered guidance advising agricultural handler employers and pesticide handlers on what to do in the face of the equipment shortage. The agency noted that cooperative Extension pesticide safety educators and agricultural organizations were among those notifying it of the equipment shortage.

“The public health emergency has created a significant increase in demand for respirators to protect healthcare workers,” EPA stated. “That increased demand, exacerbated by supply chain issues, has limited availability of respiratory protection options for users in the agricultural sector around the country … In response … the EPA is issuing this memorandum to provide temporary guidance for agricultural handler employers and pesticide handlers.”

According to the EPA memorandum, “The most common respiratory protection required by pesticide labeling is the filtering facepiece respirator (FFR). In the event label-required respiratory protection like an FFR is in short supply or unavailable for application of agricultural pesticide products due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, EPA encourages employers of pesticide handlers (i.e., “handler employers”) and handlers to evaluate and, when viable, utilize one or more of the following approaches that are compliant” with federal rules and regulations: 

•  Use respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that are equally or more protective than the respirator type required on the pesticide product label.

• Use pesticide products intended for the same use that do not require the use of respiratory protection.

• Secure the services of a commercial applicator with sufficient supplies of the required personal protective equipment and associated fit testing capability.

• When possible, delay use of pesticides until one or more compliance options are available.

See the full EPA statement here.

Source: EPA

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