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EPA expected to require protective garments for agricultural workers.

EPA Expected To Require Protective Garments For Agricultural Workers The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to release a final rule later this year requiring that all agricultural workers wear personal protective garments when handling certain types of pesticides. EPA representatives have told INDA that protective garments made from nonwoven fabrics would be ideal for complying with the new rule and that the regulations could create a huge new market for these types of garments.

New Regulations

At a recent meeting of INDA's Government Relations Advisory Board (GRAB), three representatives from EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs provided an overview of a proposed rule that would require that protective garments be worn by all agricultural workers who handle certain pesticides. The rule would even apply to maintenance workers responsible for cleaning pesticide application devices as well as to "early re-entry workers"--those who work in areas that have been previously treated with pesticides.

The proposed rule was first published in July, 1988 and has been under consideration since. The final version is expected to be released within the next 90 days and major changes are not expected between the proposed and final versions of the rule.

The proposed rule would require that all agriculture workers who "mix, load, transfer, transport, apply, dispose" or are otherwise exposed to most pesticides wear, at least, the following: a protective suit, chemical-resistant gloves, chemical-resistant shoes, shoe covers or boots, respiratory protection devices and goggles or a face shield.

EPA recognizes that the toxicity of the pesticide being used, the type of formulation and the "route and degree" of anticipated exposure all affect the appropriate amount of protective equipment that should be used. Workers with higher exposure to more toxic pesticides would have to wear garments with greater levels of protection than workers who have ess exposure or are exposed to less toxic pesticides.

In addition, the proposal would expand the scope of existing EPA requirements so that they would include not only workers performing hand labor operations in fields treated with pesticides, but also workers in forests, nurseries and greenhouses.

During the GRAB meeting, EPA staff estimated that the rule would require that about 80% of all agriculture workers--nearly 2.5 million people--wear protective garments.

Disposable Protective Equipment

Since 1988, when the proposal was first published, EPA has received a number of comments concerning the requirement for a "protective suit." According to EPA staff, many of those who commented were concerned that reusable protective suits would not be properly decontaminated after exposure to pesticides and that contaminated laundry water might find its way into public drinking water supplies.

For these reasons, EPA sees benefits in the use of disposable protective suits. In fact, staff members predicted that a market for chemically resistant disposable suits will emerge as a result of this regulation since it will be easier to adequately dispose of contaminated suits (even though they would be considered hazardous waste) than it will be to adequately decontaminate a reusable suit once it has been exposed to the pesticides.

Furthermore, the proposed rule includes a number of stiff requirements for handling, cleaning and storing reusable protective garments. These requirements could serve as an incentive to use disposables.

In fact, according to John Starr, of John R. Starr, Inc., Osterville, MA, the agricultural market for nonwoven protective apparel will at least double in volume as a result of the EPA rule.

Mr. Starr also estimates that commercial pesticide application companies will represent more than half of the disposable protective consumption in this market and that use of chemically-resistant aprons and other protective accessories is likely to grow even more rapidly than the use of coveralls.

Approval Process

While EPA expects to publicly release the final versions of the regulation by early 1991, it will have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget and reviewed by Congress before it can actually take effect. Therefore, it could take six months or more for the proposal to be finalized.

In the meantime, one of the speakers at INDA-TEC '91 (April 9-12, Orlando, FL) will be Dr. Patricia Breslin, director of the pesticide farm safety staff of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, the office with jurisdiction over the proposed rule. Dr. Breslin is scheduled to provide a full overview of the proposal and its impact on the nonwovens industry.
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Title Annotation:market opportunities for nonwoven fabrics
Author:Mayberry, Peter
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Feb 1, 1991
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