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Ohio State University Extension


Pesticide Exposure

Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training for Operators and Supervisors
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agricultural Safety and Health Program

Objective: To know the types and causes of pesticide exposure and how to prevent exposures.

Trainer’s Note

Discuss how personal protective equipment can protect the applicator from the different types of exposure. The training modules, “Pesticide Protective Equipment” and “Reading Pesticide Labels,” can provide additional information. Review the true or false quiz.


There are four ways toxic materials can be taken into the body. They are: oral, dermal, inhalation, and ocular exposures, with dermal the most common type of exposure. These types of exposures are explained in the chart below.

Type of Exposure


Cause of Exposure

Oral exposure

Swallow or ingest a pesticide

  • Not washing hands before eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Mistaking a pesticide for food or drink.
  • Incidentally applying pesticides to food.
  • Splashing pesticide into the mouth through an incident or carelessness.

Dermal exposure

Skin coming in contact with a pesticide

  • Not washing hands after handling pesticides or their containers.
  • Splashing or spraying pesticides on unprotected skin.
  • Applying pesticides in windy weather.
  • Wearing inadequate personal protective equipment while handling pesticides or their containers.

Inhalation exposure

Breathing in a pesticide

  • Prolonged contact with pesticides in closed or poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Breathing vapors from fumigants and other pesticides.
  • Breathing vapors, dust, or mist while handling pesticides without appropriate protective equipment.
  • Inhaling vapors immediately after a pesticide is applied.
  • Using the wrong respirator or an improperly fitted respirator, or using filters, cartridges, or canisters that are “full” of chemicals, dust, etc.

Ocular exposure

Pesticide gets in the eye.

  • Splashing or spraying pesticides in eyes.
  • Applying pesticides in windy weather without eye protection.
  • Rubbing eyes with contaminated gloves or hands.
  • Pouring dust, granules or powder formulations without eye protection.

Exposure is considered

Acute: One-time case of pesticide exposure and effects are illnesses or injuries that may appear immediately after exposure (usually within 24 hours). For example: a spill on the body. Exposure is usually easy to determine.

Chronic: Low-level exposure over a longer period of time. Exposure is usually difficult to determine.

Allergic (Skin and respiratory): Exposure to a pesticide that produces an immune response from the body.

A combination of the two exposures can be dangerous. For example, daily exposure to a pesticide through contaminated clothing combined with an acute exposure like spilling a pesticide on your skin poses the greatest risk because the body may not be able to deal with the acute exposure.

Avoiding Exposure

In order to avoid exposure, it is important to avoid the causes of exposure. For example, by wearing the proper eye protection you can prevent a pesticide from getting in the eyes.

To avoid exposure:

  • Wear proper personal protective equipment (Refer to the training module “Pesticide Protective Equipment”).
  • If you do start to breathe pesticide mist or dust, move away from that area as quickly as possible and get into fresh air.
  • Use a closed handling system.
  • Maintain and clean personal protective equipment.
  • Wash exposed body parts often to reduce dermal exposure.
  • Read pesticide labels thoroughly (Refer to training module “Reading Pesticide Labels”).

Review the Following Points

  • Dermal exposure to a pesticide means that it gets on the skin.
  • Ocular exposure to a pesticide means that it gets in the eye.
  • Oral exposure to a pesticide is swallowing or ingesting it.
  • Inhalation exposure is inhaling a pesticide.
  • Using improper personal protective equipment can lead to exposure to the pesticide.

About These Modules

The Ag Tailgate Training Series was developed by members of the Agricultural Safety and Health Program in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Revised by Dee Jepsen, State Agricultural Safety Leader, with editing assistance by Lisa Pfeifer and Cody McClain.

True or False Answer Key

1. T
2. T
3. F

4. F
5. T






Quiz: Pesticide Exposure



True or False?

1. Oral exposure to pesticides can be caused by a spill of pesticides entering your mouth. T F
2. Inhalation of pesticides can occur if you have the wrong respirator or one that does not fit correctly. T F
3. Eye exposure to pesticides can be cause by a spill of pesticides into your mouth as a result of an incident or carelessness. T F
4. Applicators or workers do not need to wash their hands after applying pesticides. T F
5. Personal protective equipment (PPE) can decrease exposure to pesticides. T F








Originally posted Jun 13, 2019.