Reading a Pesticide Label

By law, pesticide labels must contain the following information:

1. Brand or Trade Name: The name, brand, or trademark is plainly displayed on the front panel of the product label. The brand is the name used in ads by the company that makes the product and is the most identifiable name for the product.


2. Chemical Name: All chemicals have a scientific name. While the brand name will differ depending on which company made the chemical, the scientific name will be the same for every company.


3. Ingredients Statement: Every pesticide label must list what is in the product. It must show the percent of active and inert ingredients. The names of the active ingredients must be shown either by chemical name or common and chemical name. Presently, the inert ingredients do not need to be listed. New labeling regulations will require toxic inert ingredients to be listed.


4. Type of Formulation: A pesticide may be available in more than one type of formulation liquid, wettable powders, emulsifiable concentrations, dusts, and others. Different types of formulations require different methods of handling. The label will say what type of formulation the package contains and how to use it properly.


5. Child Hazard Warning: Every pesticide container must bear the statement “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN” on the front label.


6. Net Contents: The label must show how much product is in the container. If the product is liquid, it must be stated in liquid measurement terms (gallons, quarts, pints, and fluid ounces). If the product is a powder or granule, it is stated in terms of weight (pounds and ounces).


7. Directions For Use: The instructions on the label must tell you how to use the product properly within its legal requirements for the best results. The directions must tell you:
The pests the product is registered to control.
The crops, animals, or other items the products can be used on.
In what form the product should be applied.
How to apply the product.
How much to use.
Where it should be applied.
When it should be applied.
How frequently it should be applied.
The waiting period between treatment and eating a product or re-entering a treated area without protective clothing.
How to safely store and dispose of the product.


8.        Warning or Caution Statements: The label must tell you the type of hazard the product poses (corrosive, flammable, toxic, etc.) and how to avoid the hazard. If the pesticide is highly toxic, this section must inform physicians of the proper treatment for poisoning. Whether or not the product is highly toxic, the label should also state what types of exposure require medical attention. Emergency first aid must be stated on the label; however, antidotes are not always in keeping with current medical recommendations.


       You can tell the toxicity of a pesticide by looking at the signal word on the label. Pesticides are classified into Toxicity Categories I-IV (Category I is the most toxic, IV the least toxic). The signal words and the precautionary statements required on the label are different for each category.


The pesticide is in this category of toxicity

Required Signal Word

Amount that can result in death

   I     Highly Toxic


A few drops to one teaspoon

  II     Moderately Toxic


one teaspoon to one ounce

  III   Slightly Toxic


over one ounce

  IV   Not Toxic

   Not Required

       Warning and Caution statements will also tell you in what ways the product may be poisonous to humans and domestic animals. It will make recommendations on how to avoid poisoning, such as protective clothing or ventilation requirements. However, more information in this area than is legally required is needed on the labels of pesticides. Types of safety equipment are not always clearly defined, and it is not specified how much ventilation is adequate (an open window, exhaust fan, or use outdoors).


       Pesticides or pesticide residues may contaminate water supplies, accumulate to dangerous levels in the environment, or harm birds, fish, or wildlife. To address these problems the label may contain environmental precautions applying to air, water, or wildlife.


9. Misuse Statement: To use a pesticide product in any manner inconsistent with its labeling is a violation of federal law. You are reminded of this in the misuse statement.


10. Registration and Establishment Numbers: Every pesticide on the market must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. The registration number is written as “EPA Registration No. XXX.” The establishment number, which is a code for which factory makes the chemical, must also be on every pesticide container. It usually appears under the registration number.


11. Name and Address of Manufacturer: The name and address of the company that made or distributed the product must be on the label. This way the purchaser of the product knows who made or sold the product and can contact them if necessary.


© Copyright, 1996 by Purdue Research Foundation, West Lafayette, Indiana  47907