Reducing insecticide exposure: Proper laundering of contaminated clothing

SDSU Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — To prevent accidental insecticide exposure, applicators need to take appropriate, precautionary steps when it comes to the care of their clothing following application, explained Adam Varenhorst, assistant professor and SDSU Extension field crop entomologist.

“Exposure to insecticides can pose a serious health threat to the individuals working with insecticides along with their families, as families can be exposed to insecticides when contaminated work clothes are laundered at home,” Varenhorst said.

In many cases, reading the insecticide label will provide the information needed regarding the use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Insecticide labels list the minimum required PPE that must be worn while working with insecticides to reduce exposure.

“However, even with exercising caution when mixing and applying insecticides or disposing of used PPE a person’s clothing can still be contaminated,” Varenhorst explained. “Even when label recommendations are carefully followed, and PPE was worn there is still the risk of work clothing having some insecticide residues present.”

Handling clothing

It is important to exercise caution when handling and laundering clothing that was worn while working with insecticides.

• Potentially contaminated articles of clothing should always be handled as if they were contaminated.

• Clothing that is worn while working with insecticides should be changed as soon as possible. This will reduce the risk for exposure to the individual working with the insecticides and prevent potential contamination of personal vehicles and homes.

• When the clothing is removed, it should be placed into a sealable container that is clearly labeled “Contaminated Clothing.”

• When handling contaminated clothing, wear chemical resistant gloves that are rated as highly resistant to the insecticide that was applied.

• Lightly contaminated clothes should be laundered immediately, and only with other potentially contaminated clothing.

• Do not wash these clothes with the rest of the household laundry.

• Wash contaminated clothes in hot water using a highly concentrated or heavy-duty detergent.

• Do not dry clothes in the dryer once they are washed.

— Even after washing, there may still be insecticide residues present in the fibers of the clothes. The heat from the dryer will remove the residues, resulting in a contaminated clothes dryer.

— The clothes should be line dried instead.

— Before washing any other items in the washing machine, it is important to run the machine through one empty cycle with detergent. This will remove any remaining insecticide residues.

Direct exposure

In instances where insecticides were spilled onto clothes, remove them, and dispose of them in the same manner as used for contaminated PPE.

“Although proper laundering can remove small amounts of insecticide residue, laundering clothes with larger amounts may result in contamination of the washing machine, yourself, and others,” Varenhorst said.