Mixed Messages on Weed Killer Safety Necessitate PPE

Respirators are crucial equipment for chemical landscaping tasks

May 15, 2019

As the spring weed season is in full bloom, CMM reminds landscapers who use weed killers and other chemicals to maintain facility lawns to wear respirators and other personal protective equipment(PPE) to protect themselves from adverse effects of the treatments.

The reminder is timely as a jury earlier this week awarded a California couple an unparalleled US$2.05 billion award after they claimed their cancer was caused by long-term exposure to Monsanto Co.’s weed killer, Roundup, CNN reports. The couple, who were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, used the popular weed killer on their lawn for more than three decades. The verdict awarded them more than $55 million in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages.

Monsanto has faced several recent losses in court concerning Roundup, and thousands of similar cases are pending in federal and state courts. Bayer AG, the parent company of Monsanto, insists that the key ingredient in Roundup—glyphosate—is safe. In a recent statement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that glyphosate was not a carcinogen and posed no health risk when used as directed. However, a World Health Organization report in 2015 suggested that glyphosate might cause cancer.

Workers can avoid breathing in fumes from weed killers, insecticides and other chemicals by wearing a respirator that covers their nose and mouth. Andrew Sheridan, marketing manager of retail and specialty for Protective Industrial Products, recommends that workers inspect their respirators regularly for holes and cracks and store them in a location protected from the weather and extreme temperature changes. Respirator wearers also need to make sure the seal is not broken because the seal is what keeps PPE tight against the user’s face.


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