How to Understand Pesticide Labels

Ignore a “Dry Clean Only” label and you may end up with a shredded sweater. Ignore a pesticide warning label and you may end up six feet under.

Pesticide poisonings are extremely rare, fatalities even rarer, but limiting your risk of exposure is a easy as following the instructions on the label. Understanding and following the pesticide label will protect you, your family, and our environment. Pesticide labels are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are very specific and full of important information.  Read them! Here’s how to understand a pesticide a label:

What to Look for on a Pesticide Label

A pesticide label has several parts—all of which are important, so read the entire label BEFORE use.  If the product you are going to use is not in the original container or doesn’t have a label, STOP. Do not use it! Your safety is not worth the risk.

Fact: A licensed applicator may not transfer unused product into any container of a type commonly used for food, drink or household products, and neither should you! Avoid any confusion between pesticides and food or beverages.

Pesticide Label Front Panel Contents

The front panel of a pesticide label can include the following: restricted use pesticide statement; product name, brand, or trademark; ingredient statement; child hazard warning statement; signal word; first aid statement; skull and cross bones symbol and the word “Poison”; and net contents/net weight.

A Word About Signal Words

As a general rule, consumers should avoid applying any product labeled with the signal word “DANGER” or “WARNING.” These products are rarely appropriate in a residential setting and not appropriate for use without training.

CAUTION appears on products
that are the least harmful to you.

WARNING  means a product is more
harmful than one with a “Caution” label.

DANGER means a product is poisonous or corrosive
and should be used with extreme care.

Pay close attention to the first aid statement. First, make sure you handle the pesticide according to the label to avoid the need for first aid; second, if you do require first aid, you’ll be prepared.

Fact: Licensed applicators are required to read the entire pesticide label for every product they use. 

EPA Pesticide Label Front Panel

FRONT PANEL OF A PESTICIDE LABEL ANNOTATED BY THE EPA

Pesticide Label Back Panel Contents

The back panel of the label can include the following four parts: precautionary statements, directions for use, storage and disposal instructions, and the warranty statement. The precautionary statement provides the pesticide user with information regarding the toxicity, irritation, and sensitization hazards associated with the use of a pesticide, as well as treatment instructions and information to reduce exposure potential.

Fact: The most common method of pesticide poisoning is dermal, that is, through the skin. This is the reason that licensed applicators always wear chemical resistant gloves when mixing or using pesticides.

“Directions for Use” includes information on how the product works and give directions that are applicable to all the use sites and pests listed on the label. Make sure the pest you are targeting is listed on the label. The directions will also tell you how long to wait between treatments. More IS NOT better. You increase your risk by treating too frequently and/or using more material than is directed by the label.

Fact: Licensed applicators must have in their possession the product label and Safety Data Sheet for every product on their vehicle. As a consumer, you may ask to see the label and Safety Data Sheet at any time.

PESTICIDE LABEL BACK PANEL ANNOTATED BY THE EPA

PESTICIDE LABEL BACK PANEL ANNOTATED BY THE EPA

 

Labels you can ignore: Serving Size. For 2 to 4 Players. Dry Clean Only. Label to ALWAYS follow: Pesticide product label.

Label you can ignore: “Serving Size.” Label to ALWAYS follow: Pesticide product label.

About the Author:

Garrett Thrasher is Vice President and General Manager of Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal, Inc., Chairperson of the San Diego District of the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC), a member of the bedbugFREE network, and a member of the National Pest Management Association. Author of The Bed Bug Battle Plan: Field Tested Solutions for Bed Bug Extermination and Prevention (ISBN: 1500838209), Garrett’s solid understanding of bed bugs, their behavior, current outbreaks, and experience on camera has made him a leading contact for news and media outlets. He is also a sought after speaker on the topic of managing online reviews for positive impact. He has spoken at PestWorld and PestTech, and was featured in PCT Magazine and the PCT Podcast. Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal is accredited by QualityPro–the mark of excellence in pest management.

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