There is a lot of talk about plant phytosanitary products and this is an opportunity to take a look at the use of these chemical or biological substances in agriculture and the protection measures associated with them.
A phytopharmaceutical product is a preparation containing one or more active substances for:
protect plants or plant products against any harmful organism
influence vital plant processes (growth regulator)
ensure plant conservation
destroy unwanted plants
One can therefore distinguish herbicides against weeds, fungicides against fungi, insecticides against insects and acaricides, molluscicides, taupicides etc.
They are more commonly known as”pesticides”. These are used in a precise framework which depends on the nature of the aggressor (e.g. insecticide), at a given concentration, a given dose which takes into account the activity and the risk for man and the environment.
The active chemical molecule, or microorganism, is accompanied by one or more co-formulants to stabilize, stain or secure it.
Mode of action
The phytopharmaceutical product may be used as a preventive or curative measure
Preventive: the product is used before any symptoms or presence of the pest.
Curative: the product is used after the diagnosis has been made about the nature of the pest or disease.
Herbicides can act as a preventive (on seeds and roots) as well as a curative on leaves and roots. A systemic herbicide acts on the whole plant. For example, glyphosate is a total non-selective foliar herbicide. As it doesn’t adhere well to the leaves, a surfactant must be added.
An insecticide can act as a preventive when it coats the seed. As a curative it acts on the insect by inhalation, contact or ingestion.
Special case of Bacillus thuringiensis :this insecticide contains a bacterial strain of B. thuringiensis: it is a bacterium that destroys caterpillars by contact and ingestion. It can be used in organic farming.
Like any chemical product, the marketing regulations require that the product be clearly identified on a label accompanied by a safety data sheet containing the information necessary for proper handling of the product.
The conditions of use are specified on the label and depend on the product. Any use outside the conditions of use mentioned is prohibited.
Good agricultural practices should be followed for transport, storage, filling, formulation and mixing of plant protection products.
In recent years, phytopharmaceutical product applicators have become aware of the risk associated with the product used. If we think primarily of the respiratory tract, they are not the only ones requiring protection: the product also penetrates the body through the skin and mucous membranes. Protection by PPE (personal protective equipment), adapted to personal use, is therefore necessary.
Risks of contamination
Contamination can occur during the preparation of the spray liquid, the application of the product, the cleaning and emptying of the sprayer, and the various interventions due to its improper operation (clogged nozzles, broken hoses…).
Any contact with a polluted element (material, plant, PPE) can be a source of indirect contamination. Spray equipment should be appropriate for the type of treatment and crop and should be maintained before the treatment season and adjusted before each application.
Wind must be taken into account in order to limit the distribution of the product, limit the number of people handling the products and exclude those who do not participate in the operation.
Routes of contamination
Contamination can occur by inhalation of dust, fumes, gases, vapours. The lungs have a great capacity of retention of toxic products. The diffusion towards the blood is then done very quickly.
It is much rarer in this case unless the toxic products have been transferred into food containers such as bottles. it’s a particularly acute problem with children. Getting contaminated fingers in your mouth can also cause digestive contamination.
This is the most common contamination. The products pass through the skin and through the blood to sensitive organs such as the liver, spleen and nerve tissue. Other products may be aggressive and cause burns, redness and irritation.
Protecting yourself is therefore an obligation
The use of PPE is indicated on the label. The employer is required to ensure that his employees wear suitable protective equipment, in particular for the preparation of mixtures, sprays and during product application operations.
The employer is responsible for the free supply of this equipment, for its maintenance and periodically ensures its replacement, as well as in case of defect. The equipment must comply with European rules.
Protective clothing must be category III, the only effective against chemicals according to European regulations.
In accordance with the instructions given to him by the employer, the worker must take care of his safety and health, as well as those of the other persons concerned by reason of his acts or omissions at work.
In addition to protective clothing, the eyes and respiratory system must be protected with a mask, hands (gloves) and feet (boots).
Ouvry offers the CE certified Polyagri® (PPE category III) as protective clothing.
Polyagri® is recommended in agricultural activities, in particular viticulture, arboriculture, greenhouses :
With tractor without cab
With a lance
With backpack sprayer
In mechanical spraying
Polyagri® is the ideal solution in case of:
Chronic exposure to chemical fumes
Long tasks > 30 min
Hot and humid environments
The OPC50 mask from Ouvry completes the equipment and protects the eyes and breathing apparatus.
Even if plant protection products now pose a number of problems, such as glyphosate suspected of being responsible for cancer, even if a recent study shows that pesticides can be found on a large number of foods, the switch to organic farming can only be made very gradually. Even if current products have market authorization, pesticides must be used under the strict conditions set out on the label and in safety data sheets. PPE is also essential for the preparation and spreading of products.
It is in this perspective that the Pulvécenter sprayer controllers now use Polyagri® : it allows, among other things, to work in ideal temperature conditions, especially in a hazardous chemical environment.
I found it interesting that you said that contamination can occur by inhalation of dust, fumes, and gases, and the importance of using the proper equipment for the preparation of mixtures. My friend told me that lately, he has been struggling with a clogged nose and he said it has nothing to do with the flu. I’m going to encourage him on looking for some pharmaceuticals.
Thanks for sharing all of your experiences!