Winter 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 4 // Research in Brief // 4RIB2

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Chemical Dealers and Pesticide Safety


Lois C. Shern
Graduate Student
Department of Human Environment and Design
Michigan State University-East Lansing

Ann C. Slocum
Department of Human Environment and Design
College of Human Ecology
Michigan State University-East Lansing

Larry G. Olsen
Pesticide Education Coordinator
Pesticide Research Center
Michigan State University-East Lansing

Two recent surveys1 reported that growers seek information about pesticide protective clothing primarily from Cooperative Extension and chemical companies or local pesticide dealers. These findings prompted Michigan researchers to develop a survey to determine what protective clothing products and information were available from retail pesticide dealers. Is the clothing and equipment recommended in Extension publications available in local communities? What information do dealers provide about protective clothing? Are they interested in information from Cooperative Extension? How does dealer information compare to Extension information?

During the Summer of 1988, a survey was mailed to the 440 Michigan chemical dealers licensed to sell restricted-use pesticides. Two hundred thirty-seven (54%) usable questionnaires were returned. Twelve on-site visits were also made to local retail outlets in the greater Lansing, Michigan area.

Sixty-five percent (152) of the Michigan chemical dealers responding offered some type of protective clothing for sale. Gloves were available at slightly over half of the businesses. Other items offered for sale included goggles, respirators, and disposable coveralls. However, on-site visits indicated little variety in any garment category - usually only one type or style was available.

Sixty percent (142) of the respondents reported that customers asked about protective clothing. When faced with questions about protective clothing, 48% (112) reported that they answered questions from their own knowledge, 38% (91) referred to the chemical label for information, and 29% (69) referred to a catalog or supplier.

When chemical dealers were asked where they obtained information about protective clothing, the most frequently reported source was bulletins or magazines (60.3%). Promotional literature provided by manufacturers ranked a close second (59.5%). Attending a program that included information about protective clothing and viewing a clothing exhibit at a trade show were also reported as important sources of information by over one-third of the respondents. Only seven percent had attended a program that dealt specifically with protective clothing.

The final question on the survey offered respondents the chance to request more information dealing with protective clothing selection and care. Two hundred of the 237 respondents asked for at least one piece of literature and over 600 publications were distributed.

Many growers view pesticide suppliers as a source of information on protective clothing. Dealers are willing to answer customer questions, but their knowledge about protective clothing is limited. Much of the information chemical dealers provide for their customers comes from chemical manufacturers. This information is often not as broad and comprehensive as the materials available from Extension, and may be biased toward a particular product. The number and variety of protective items offered by chemical dealers is limited, which can be very frustrating for a customer who's trying to follow Extension recommendations.

Extension programming in the area of pesticide protective clothing needs to better address the question of availability of protective products either by providing information on how it can be ordered from manufacturers or working with local suppliers. Chemical dealers appear receptive to receiving Extension educational materials. They represent a segment of the agricultural community that could provide help in promoting pesticide safety.


1. C. Nelson and others, "Farm Families' Attitudes and Practices Regarding Pesticide Application and Protective Clothing: A Five-State Comparison Part 2: Launderer Data," Clothing and Textiles Research Journal., VII (Fall 1988), 36-45 and Lori Ford, "Training Chemical Applicators," Lawn Servicing (April 1987), pp. 30-31.