How to reduce health risks

Plant protection products have been developed for controlling weeds and vermin. The use of plant protection products may be hazardous to human health. The safe use of plant protection products is ensured in the EU Member States and Finland, for example, in such a manner that only such active substances and products are approved to the market that do not pose a risk to health when used according to instructions.

Assessment of consumer exposure and residues

Consumers may be exposed to residues of plant protection products through foodstuffs. Tukes assesses consumer exposure to plant protection products as part of the risk assessment of plant protection products. In the risk assessment process, active substances are given maximum residue level of plant protection products, or MRL.

When reduction of residues so requires, regarding the product, authorities can

  • change the approved dosages
  • restrict the approved frequency of use
  • define waiting periods during which time harvesting is prohibited.

When plant protection products are used according to their instructions for use, their residues in foodstuffs remain at an acceptable level. The Finnish Food Authority coordinates the monitoring of plant protection product residues in foodstuffs and feeds. The residues are monitored in both Finnish and imported foodstuffs. The Finnish Food Authority publishes annually the results of the monitoring of these residues.

Assessment of health risks

The approval procedure of plant protection products includes a risk assessment made on active substances and products. Exposure assessment, where the exposure of the sprayers, employees, outsiders and permanent residents to a plant protection product is assessed, constitutes one part of the risk assessment. The exposure must remain at an acceptable level for the product to be approved.

The results of the risk assessment are used for:

  • specifying the instructions for use of personal protective equipment for sprayers and employees
  • changing the approved dosages for the product
  • restricting the approved frequency of use approved for the product
  • specifying a work hygiene-related waiting period, during which the treated area must not be entered.

Exposure to plant protection products

Users of plant protection products may be exposed to the products during manufacturing, packaging, storage or use of the products. In addition to the situations mentioned above, exposure may take place when people are taking care of treated growth, during harvesting and in connection with different working phases on wood sapling farms or in greenhouses, gardens and flower shops.

Situations where you may be exposed to plant protection products include:

  • when opening a plant protection product container
  • when diluting a plant protection product
  • when spraying
  • when cleaning a sprayer
  • when cleaning personal protective equipment.

People doing spraying work as well as employees working in the treated areas may be exposed to plant protection products. For example, employees working in greenhouses or gardens may be exposed to plant protection products.

When you are spraying a plant protection product, take account of outsiders moving near the spraying area and people living in the proximity of your farm. Use plant protection products only if they are really needed and follow good spraying practices.

How can you reduce your exposure to plant protection products?

You can reduce your own exposure when you do any work requiring use of plant protection products carefully and take care of good hand hygiene. You can prevent most of the exposure during normal work by washing your hands. At the same time, you prevent the entry of substances from your hands to your mouth, other skin areas or surfaces. You should take good care of the condition of your hands, since undamaged skin protects you better from chemicals than a dry, damaged skin.

Get acquainted with the instructions for use of plant protection products before actual use, follow the instructions and keep the instructions for use readily available. If you use plant protection products in your professional activities or use a product approved for professional use, ensure that your plant protection certification is valid.
Before starting the actual work, check the product label or safety data sheet for which personal protective equipment it requires.

The personal protective equipment must bear:

  • the manufacturer's name
  • a series of numbers defining the type of the product
  • the standard according to which the personal protective equipment has been inspected
  • level of protection
  • CE marking
  • the number ID of the inspection facility that has type tested the equipment
  • instructions for use in Finnish and in Swedish must be provided.

Keep the personal protective equipment away from plant protection products.

Avoid high-risk modes of operation:

  • cleaning nozzles by blowing into them or sucking through them
  • continuing your work even when your clothes are soiled with the plant protection product
  • eating, drinking and smoking when handling plant protection products
  • breaking the package seal using your fingers
  • getting the rucksack or hand-held sprayer soiled with the plant protection product from the outside when filling or using it
  • using household equipment, such as a coffee cup, for measuring a plant protection product
  • keeping plant protection product in some other container than the original package, such as a beverage bottle
  • climbing on a sprayer, when the tank lid is open  
  • filling a plant protection product sprayer directly from a water body or well
  • filling a sprayer tank so that it flows over.

After spraying

After having sprayed any plant protection product ensure that

Transport of plant protection products

Observe the following when transporting plant protection products from the place of purchase to a storage or place of use:

  • use the car boot or other space isolated from the passenger area for carriage
  • transport the products in tightly closed original containers
  • ensure that the product containers stay in an upright position during carriage
  • place the products in, for example, a plastic box, so that you avoid any spilling or breakage
  • keep some absorbing equipment with you in case of splashing.

The safety data sheet includes information on whether the plant protection product is classified in accordance with transport regulations. Any closer regulations concerning transport of plant protection products depend on the amounts being carried, the mode of transport and on whether the products have been classified in accordance with transport regulations.

Instructions on what to do in case of an accident can be found in the safety data sheet

The safety data sheet, SDS, is an important source of information in case of an accident. The safety data sheet contains information on spontaneous first aid measures and more detailed information for healthcare staff. In case of an accident or poisoning, the Poison Information Centre will provide situation-specific first-aid instructions.