Gloves may help prevent Parkinson's

At minimum, personal protective equipment includes gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks. Some situations also call for protective eyesore and protective coveralls. (Courtesy of the Pesticide Safety Education Program)

March 21, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. — Good doses of caution and prevention can help keep agricultural producers safer from acute injuries and chronic diseases, said a Nebraska Extension educator.

Clyde Ogg said acute injuries are those happening immediately – from an overturned tractor, for example. Chronic diseases occur over a longer period of time -- Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system -- is an example. One major study links Parkinson’s with using certain pesticides.

The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) has involved more than 89,000 farmers and their spouses since 1993.

“The AHS is the health benchmark of agricultural pesticide applicators, and continues to release information on new health study updates,” said Ogg, who heads the Pesticide Safety Education Program at UNL. In 2011 AHS researchers reported that study participants who used the herbicide paraquat or insecticide rotenone were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s as were people who didn’t. 

A key to pesticide safety is literally in the palm of your hand: wearing proper gloves.

A 2015 AHS study update reports wearing chemical-resistant gloves and changing clothes after using pesticides may help prevent Parkinson’s. Without gloves, the study showed that Parkinson’s was associated with using paraquat or the insecticide permethrin. Parkinson’s was not associated with applicators who regularly wore gloves.

All gloves, Ogg noted, are not the same. And, gloves are only one part of personal protective equipment (PPE) required by the pesticide label for handlers and applicators to protect themselves.

At minimum PPE calls for gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks. So how do you know what else to wear, such as goggles, respirators and aprons?

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“The label tells all,” Ogg said. The pesticide label is a legal document that tells all about the details of using a particular product, including gloves and other PPE. Chemical-resistant gloves, for example, are made of barrier laminate, butyl rubber, nitrile rubber, neoprene rubber, natural rubber, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or Viton.

Ogg urges people handling pesticides to note these safety factors:

- Water-resistant is not chemical-resistant, and typical household, cotton and leather gloves should never be used for protection from pesticides.

- Never re-use any disposable, one-time use gloves or other PPE. Glove length, such as elbow-length, also may be specified on the product label.

- Chemical-resistant gloves for use with pesticides are unlined, to prevent the lining from absorbing any pesticide and transferring it to the wearer’s skin.

- When removing gloves, first wash thoroughly with soap and water. Carefully remove gloves without touching skin or the glove’s interior.

Pesticide product labels undergo scheduled reevaluations, and can be changed at any time – even within a season -- due to new research and/or regulatory requirements.

“That’s why it’s imperative to read the entire label every time you purchase a pesticide product,” Ogg said. “Always follow label directions.”

In February 2017 the AHS also reported that farm workers who have a high pesticide exposure event – such as a spill – are more likely to experience molecular changes on DNA that may lead to certain cancers. 

Other AHS studies are ongoing with pesticides and potential memory loss and kidney disease.

The Agricultural Health Study is a prospective study of cancer and other health outcomes in a cohort of licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses from Iowa and North Carolina. The AHS began in 1993 with the goal of answering important questions about how agricultural, lifestyle and genetic factors affect the health of farming populations. The study is a collaborative effort involving investigators from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

More than 89,000 farmers and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina have been involved in the AHS since 1993

Clyde Ogg
Extension Educator
Pesticide Safety Education Program

Writer: Cheryl Alberts, Pesticide Safety Education Program