Groundwork needs to be done before spraying

By Ann Thompson, Federated Farmers Dairy Industry Policy advisor

Thinking about pesticide spraying programmes in advance helps everyone. Looking towards autumn, many farmers and contractors will be thinking about re-sowing pasture and crops. Others will also be looking at standing crops, assessing what share of them is being lost to pests. This may mean revisiting spray programmes to deal with soil pests.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is assessing the risk to human health when using organophosphates and carbamates to protect plants from pests. The EPA has found that little real data exist in New Zealand on how these pesticides affect those who use them and it has had to rely on academic theory and overseas experience.

Federated Farmers sees real gains for the agriculture industry if farmers and contract sprayers are pro-active about looking after and monitoring their health. This includes the periods before, during and after spray times.

Some of the chemicals used in sprays affect enzyme levels in blood. This can be tested only by finding out what your normal level is before spraying takes place. This may require a visit or phone call to the doctor, to find out what testing is required for the chemical plan being used.

Testing for the effects of organophosphates requires:

60 days before spraying begins, two sets of blood samples are taken, between three and 10 days apart. This sets your base line and is most important.

During the spraying programme, have another blood test every month.

At the end of each spray programme, if spraying lasts more than 30 hours, have another blood test within a fortnight of use.

Ring your doctor right away ifyou feel that something is not 'quite right' with your health during orafter pesticide use.

While Federated Farmers hopes the precautions taken using organophosphates and other chemicals will be enough to keep farmers safe, people will be comforted if they can see that these do work. Keeping a diary of unusual symptoms is also helpful. Testing will also help the EPA when the time comes to see the real effects of pesticides on New Zealand workers.

Remember, always read the labels on pesticides and follow the instructions.

The use of many agrichemicals requires special training and certification, so check with your local council or ring GROWSAFE on 0508 476 972.

- Hamilton News

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