Issue 13, October 8, 2021

Three Reasons Why You Should Let Your Phone Go to Voicemail While Working With Pesticides

Have you ever tracked how much time you spend using your smartphone? This past week, I averaged 1 hour and 54 minutes per day viewing email, browsing websites, and scrolling social media. The temptation of immediate access to information can be hard to resist. Whatever your opinion on smartphone usage may be, the following are three reasons why your phone shouldn’t be in your hand while mixing, loading, or applying pesticides.

Reason 1: Increased risk of exposure

Phones add yet another surface that can be contaminated with pesticide residues. There is always some degree of risk associated with using a pesticide. The risk of a pesticide is the probability of harm to a person that will result from its use. Risk is a combination of the pesticide’s toxicity (ability to poison) and the amount of exposure. If you are working with pesticides, you need to be diligent about avoiding exposure to pesticides and residues. Even a relatively non-toxic pesticide may present a significant risk if it is used carelessly or in a way that increases your exposure.

Pesticide labels include recommendations for specific personal protective equipment and actions to take to reduce potential exposure. It’s also common for labels to include a statement recommending that users should “Wash hands before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco, or using the toilet.” This recommendation targets oral exposure and dermal exposure. However, if you handled your phone while working with pesticides, it was likely contaminated. When you pick up your contaminated phone after washing your hands, you have a dermal exposure and the potential for oral exposure.

If you need to use your phone while working with pesticides, take these steps to avoid contaminating your phone. Wash your gloves with detergent and water before you remove them. This way, you will not contaminate your hands when you remove them. Then wash your hands with soap and water after you remove the gloves.

From my observations as a parent,  small children love to grab their mom and dad’s phones. They see us glued to them, and they want in on the fun. Unfortunately, any pesticide residues on your phone have now transferred to your child’s hands, and it’s only a matter of time before they reach for their mouths. While the exposure may be small, children tend to be more sensitive, and small exposures repeated time can have harmful effects.

Reason 2: Distractions lead to mistakes

Phones pose an unnecessary distraction that may lead to application errors. Fred Whitford, Purdue Pesticide Program Coordinator, produced an excellent publication and corresponding presentation titled Measuring Pesticides: Overlooked Steps to Getting the Correct Rate. Within these resources, Whitford advises applicators and handlers not to answer phones or talk to people and encourages applicators to keep distractions to a minimum when mixing products. It is too easy to lose track of or forget what you have or have not put in the tank. Measurement errors can be costly, both in terms of lost product and poor pest control.

Reason 3: It’s probably a telemarketer

The majority of calls to my cell phone are unwanted spam. I doubt that I am the only person to ignore calls from unknown numbers. If your phone rings while you are mixing or applying pesticides, let it go to voicemail. Chances are it’s Rachel from Cardholder Services or that kind individual that has trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty. If the call is truly important, they will likey leave a voicemail. You can call back after you have finished the job. If the caller was a client or your boss, surely hopefully will appreciate your safety and accuracy.

While you shouldn’t use your phone while working with pesticides, you should keep it nearby in the event of an emergency. The ability to call for help can have immediate lifesaving benefits.

Travis Cleveland

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