Pesticide Safety for Women and Families

Hello Avid Readers! Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and this week, May 8th-14th, is Women’s Health Week. I wanted to give a shout-out to all the ladies working as certified applicators. Go Girls! Also, those living in homes where pesticide safety is important for their health and the health of their kiddos. This week’s blog will be all about pesticide safety for women and families.

Two women and two young ladies hugging and sitting on a couch
Some of the women and children important in my life. My sister and her daughters.

Pesticide Safety on the Job

As has been the case in many fields, women in the pesticide application industry are sometimes overlooked. Diagrams of personal protective equipment (PPE), pictures of applicators, and advice on activities like handwashing before using the bathroom have generally been directed toward men. Now, this makes sense considering 88.9% of certified pesticide applicators in the United States are male ( However, this doesn’t mean that female applicators or women otherwise involved with pesticide use wouldn’t benefit from some guidance on pesticide safety.

Two boxes of gloves on the counter
Make sure you have the proper PPE, especially as required by label, and that you have the right size.

One thing anyone applying pesticides should do is to ensure they have access to PPE that fits. I can’t tell you how many times there were only large-size Tyvek suits and gloves when I began a new job. Before applying any pesticide make sure that you have the right size PPE to keep yourself protected and functional. Gloves that are too large can increase the risk of spills and make the job harder than it needs to be. You should mention the sizes of PPE you need to your employer and make sure they are kept in stock. Most employers will be concerned for your safety and your ability to do your job well.

Vehicle Pesticide Safety

Pesticide safety for women and families also applies to the many women who are sharing homes with pesticide applicators. For example, if you live with an applicator who drives home a truck with pesticides on it, are they following the regulations and keeping it locked up?

Applicators are required by law to keep their vehicles locked when pesticides are being transported. However, we all forget things sometimes. It’s good for others involved in home management to be aware of this regulation and the safety it provides. It’s also important for everyone to be aware of this rule if they might go into the vehicle for any reason. Say you went out to grab their wallet or cell phone from the truck and bring it inside. It would be important that you know to lock the truck for safety, and so that the applicator isn’t breaking any regulations by having an unlocked vehicle.

A truck that carries pesticides driving in the road.
You or someone in your home may have a work vehicle like this. Make sure to lock it up if there are pesticides present.

Pesticide Safety at Home

I know when I was growing up my mother did almost all my father’s and brother’s laundry. If you are living with an applicator, are you washing their clothing separately from the rest of the household? Do they come home with potential pesticide residue on any aspect of their outfit that they bring inside like their hat or shoes?

Most applicators will have been trained to think about this, but they may not have thought to share it with the family. I know some will remove their uniform and any gear in the garage and never bring any contaminated items inside. If you are doing laundry for an applicator, you should wash their clothing separately from the rest of the family’s things. Keep shoes or other footwear outdoors. For additional protection, bag shoes or boots so that children and pets don’t touch them. You should wash hats periodically, especially if there was known contamination. They may also be kept outside or in the vehicle out of reach of others. Check out our blog on “Hats and Pesticides” for more information on how hats might get contaminated.

A woman walking througha very muddy field carrying a bucket and wearing a hat
I wear hats often in the field and I must admit I didn’t wash them often in the past.

Pesticide Safety for Gardeners

Another group to consider is all our family gardeners! While most at-home ready-to-use pesticides have low toxicity to humans erring on the side of caution is not a bad idea here. Most pesticide poisoning occurs through getting it on your skin or swallowing it. This is why it is so important to keep these products out of the reach of children and in their original containers. Store your garden pesticides in a cool dry place out of the reach of children and pets such as a lockable cabinet or high shelf.

Chickens in a yard with grass
I love my pet chickens and would never want them to come in contact with a pesticide.


Make sure as a home gardener that you first read the label on the product. It is important to make sure you are using the pesticide as directed. If the label suggests PPE you should wear it. If you use a pesticide, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly afterward. As mentioned above, if you get any on your clothes make sure to wash them in a separate load.

Two bowls of tomatoes on the ground
I love gardening! As you may see some of these tomatoes don’t look great. I had a bad seed bug infestation that I decided to manage later with a ready-to-use pyrethroid. When using pesticides in gardening make sure to read the label, use PPE, and then store the product in a safe place.

These are just a few things regarding pesticide safety for women and children. Keep a lookout for our upcoming series on pesticide hygiene. It will have a lot of tips on keeping pesticides from harming you or your family’s health at home.

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Posted: May 12, 2022

Category: 4-H & Youth, Agriculture, HOME LANDSCAPES, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Emily Kraus, Families, Garden, Pesticide Information Office, Pesticide Safety, Pesticides, PPE, Women

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