Safety to operators and bystanders

There is a consensus among the leading regulatory authorities globally that paraquat must be used with care because formulations of paraquat are irritants to eyes and skin. However, provided that basic good agricultural practices


Refers to the package of recommendations and available knowledge to address environmental, economic, and social sustainability for on-farm production and post-production processes resulting in safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products. GAP may consist of guidelines addressing issues of site selection, adjacent land use, fertilizer use, water sourcing and use, pest control and pesticide monitoring, harvesting practices (including worker hygiene, packaging, storage, field sanitation, and product transportation), and cooler operations.

Authoritative On-line References and Resources The UN FAO provides independent information on GAP programmes, practices and standards.
are observed, paraquat can be used without significant health risk to operators and bystanders.
  • In their Health and Safety Guide No. 51, the International Program on Chemical Safety (a collaborative program of the United Nations Environment program, the International Labor Organization, and the World Health Organization (WHO)) concluded that “with reasonable work practices, including safety precautions, hygiene measures, and proper supervision, occupational exposure during the manufacture, formulation and use of paraquat will not cause a hazard. However, the undiluted concentrate must be handled with great care, because improper work practices may result in the contamination of the eyes and skin”
  • In the European Union (EU), the opinion of the independent expert Scientific Committee for Plants (SCP) was that “the results of the field studies conducted in various countries indicate that the exposure models markedly overestimate the actual exposure to paraquat in real working situations. Thus modelled exposures cannot be used as the only basis for operator risk assessment. Based on the field exposure studies, corroborated by information on health surveys on operators, the SCP is of the opinion that when paraquat is used as a plant protection product as recommended under prescribed good working practices, its use does not pose any significant health risk for the operators.” (SCP, 2002).
  • In their review report for paraquat, the European Commission (EC) required that Member States pay particular attention to the protection of operators, in particular for knapsack and handheld users. “The availability of the product should be limited to bona fide agriculturalists, horticulturalists and professional users” and “the maximum spray concentration must not exceed 2g bipyridyl/litre for knapsack and hand held applications” (EC, 2003)
In their RED facts document, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required that
post-application, re-entry workers observe: “a 12-hour Restricted Entry Interval for the uses of paraquat for pre-emergent or early-season weed control and weed control for orchards and vegetable crops” “a 24-hour Restricted Entry Interval is required for dessication and harvest aid applications of paraquat”. The US EPA concluded that margins of exposure were generally acceptable but required a reduction in the spray concentration of paraquat to mitigate risk to backpack sprayers and required that mixers and loaders of paraquat products wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) compared to that required for applicators: “Additional PPE are being required for mixers and loaders: gloves, chemical resistant apron and face shield.”