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Choose the Proper Gloves When Handling Pesticides

April 12, 2002
As every applicator knows, gloves (among other personal protective equipment) should be worn to protect yourself from contact with pesticides. However, choosing the right glove for the job may be confusing, especially when using a variety of pesticides. All pesticide labels give options for the type of glove material to wear. These options are not random selections but are based on the ability of that material to withstand the pesticide formulation for the longest time.

Pesticide active ingredients are dissolved in carrier solvents such as water, alcohols, and petroleum distillates. All solvents (except water) are able to penetrate glove materials faster than the pesticide active ingredient alone. In other words, the solvents carry the pesticide through the glove material and into contact with your skin. Glove materials differ in their resistance to particular solvents--the ones that hold the solvent at bay the longest, protect from pesticide contamination the longest. Solvents are classified as part of the inert ingredients and, in most cases, are not disclosed on the label.

While some pesticide labels may specify the exact type of glove to be used, other labels may simply indicate the general type of glove that is appropriate, such as waterproof or chemical resistant, and then provide acceptable options. In addition, some labels provide chemical-resistance category letters, which indicate the type of solvents used in the pesticide formulation. Where specific information is given, use only the glove materials listed on the label for that product. Do not assume that one type of glove will work for all the pesticides you may use. In addition, if you are tank-mixing pesticides, follow the most restrictive pesticide label when selecting gloves and other personal protective equipment.

Categories (A-H) on Pesticide Labels and the EPA Glove Chart

The letter designation refers to the carrier solvent and its concentration in the pesticide formulation, not the type of pesticide. The letter designation, if provided, is found on the pesticide label under Precautionary Statements. There also usually will be several choices of glove materials listed on the label. Listed below are the letter designations for various pesticide solvents:

A. Any dry or water-based pesticide formulation

B. Any pesticide with acetate as the carrier solvent

C. Any pesticide with alcohol as the carrier solvent

D. Any pesticide with halogenated hydrocarbons as the carrier

E. Any pesticide with ketones (such as acetone) as the carrier solvent

F. Any pesticide with a ketone and aromatic petroleum distillates mixture as the carrier solvent

G. Any pesticide with aliphatic petroleum distillates (such as kerosene, petroleum oil, or mineral oil) as the carrier solvent

H. Any pesticide that has aromatic petroleum distillates (such as xylene) as the carrier solvent

USEPA Chemical-Resistance Category Selection

Table 1 shows the information to be used when the personal protective equipment section on the pesticide label lists a chemical-resistance category.

Glove Materials

Barrier laminate (foil type)--the most chemically resistant but uncomfortable, with poor dexterity, because of design limitations. Common brand names include Silver Shield and 4-H. Chemical resistance: High for categories A-H ($7/pair).

Butyl rubber (at least 14 mils)--a synthetic rubber that is resistant to gas and water vapors and is a good choice for certain fumigants. Good dexterity. Chemical resistance: High for categories A-D and F; slight for E, G, and H ($20/pair).

Natural rubber (latex) (at least 14 mils)--good only for dry or water-based formulations ($10-$24/pair).

Nitrile rubber (at least 14 mils)--resists punctures better than other materials. Good dexterity and slip-proof grip. Comes in a range of lengths, thickness, and lined or unlined. Chemical resistance: High for categories A, C, E, and F; moderate for D; and slight for B, G, and H ($3-$9/pair).

Neoprene rubber (at least 14 mils)--a synthetic rubber with good dexterity. Remains flexible at low temperatures. Some versions have a two-color process, allowing you to tell when the coating material is wearing thin. Chemical resistance: High for categories A, C, and E ($2-$50/pair)

Polyethylene--no information available.

PVC (at least 14 mils)--liquidproof PVC coated gloves can be used for protection against anhydrous ammonia. Chemical resistance: High for categories A and C, moderate for E, slight for B and F ($4/pair).

Viton (at least 14 mils)the most chemically resistant "rubber" glove available. Thick, but very flexible and comfortable to wear. Also available as Viton-over-nitrile, which is more economical than 100% Viton. Chemical resistance: High for categories A, C, and E-H; slight for B and D (usually over $100/pair; Viton-over-nitrile gloves are much less expensive).

Glove Use Tips

Keep one set of gloves for pouring and mixing concentrates and another set for spraying. The 4-H glove is so named because it is able to keep out most solvents for at least 4 hours. Because the 4-H and other barrier laminates are the most chemically resistant gloves, realize that other glove materials are likely to keep out some solvents with their pesticides for even shorter periods. Reduce the exposure time by washing your gloves and other personal protective equipment after each use. Allow them to dry before they are placed in a storage area.

Since the manufacturers label the glove packages, but not the gloves themselves, with the name of the material, write the name of the glove material on the inside of the glove cuff with a permanent marker. This will save confusion later.

Finally, don't use gloves that have a lining because the lining will absorb pesticides. Gloves that have a thin lining of flocking are acceptable. These gloves will have a thin, white coating, making the gloves more comfortable to wear.--Bruce Paulsrud and Phil Nixon, adapted from Mississippi State University Extension

Author: Bruce Paulsrud Phil Nixon

The Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin
Executive Editor: Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomologist

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