It is common to see pesticide technicians in hats, particularly logoed ballcaps. They are practical for keeping the sun off while providing visibility for the company logo. The more worn in a hat is, the more comfortable it can be…but can that hat be a possible route for pesticide exposure?
Labels specify that clothes worn during pesticide application need to be laundered as soon as possible after wear and should be washed separately from other laundry. The best applicators follow this all the time, but so often miss one final piece of clothing…their hat. A cotton ballcap can absorb just as much pesticide as any other article of clothing and should be washed just as frequently. Worse yet, some labels require chemical resistant coveralls to protect clothes, but many still wear the same hat uncovered, and possibly exposed.
We all know how hot Florida can get and sweat inevitably accompanies pesticide applications. If a hat is exposed to pesticides and not washed properly, it poses the extra risk of sweat drawing in pesticide and allowing it to run down your face. Not only could this be uncomfortable but could cause damage to the eyes. Sure, a sweat ring on a hat gives it character, but if it is contaminated with pesticide it could give your eyes more than character. How often do we adjust our hats while wearing them? Doing so with contaminated gloves adds an additional route to pesticide exposure.
There are labels that require “overhead, chemically resistant protection, and in that case a cloth hat would NOT work. As with all pesticide use always read and follow the label. Read the entire label BEFORE you purchase and BEFORE you use, every time.
Hats CAN be ok to wear during a pesticide application, but we all need to be aware that they are easily contaminated with pesticide residue. At a minimum, launder hats like you would any other clothing worn during application and ALWAYS read and follow the label.
Photo credit Shelby Thomas, Communications Manager, UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants