The label isn't just for safety's sake, it tells all about the product: how efficiently the product works, where, when and how it should be applied, plus how to store and dispose of it properly. In the event first aid is necessary, the key information for treatment is there.
Read the label before you buy and read it again before each use. Follow all manufacturers' instructions. The information on the label is mandated by law and approved by the EPA. On the label you'll find:
Common Name/Brand Name - Common names are simplified versions of the usually much longer name of the chemical compound. Brand names vary by manufacturer. When comparing brands, the shared information is the chemical name found on the label.
Active Ingredient - The ingredient that "deals" with the pest is called the active ingredient. It appears as either a common or chemical name on the label along with the percentage by weight in the container.
Other Ingredients - Additional elements are added to enhance the application, handling, storage or other characteristics of the pesticide. Also called "inert" ingredients on the label, these components are not specifically named on the label. Being labeled as inert does not necessarily mean that these additional elements are nontoxic. They are merely not active in the compound. Other additives, called adjuvants, are included in the mix to help the pesticide stick or spread, keep it from drifting in the wind or to increase penetration.
EPA Registration Number - The number tells you that the pesticide has been reviewed and approved by the EPA. The number is not an endorsement of the product.
Signal Words - These important notices tell the level of toxicity if exposed to the skin or eyes, eaten or inhaled. Toxicity is rated on a scale that separates pesticides into three levels:
- Caution identifies the pesticides that are slightly toxic - the least harmful.
- Warning tells you it is more poisonous than a pesticide with a Caution label, but still moderate toxicity.
- Danger on the label indicates that the pesticide is very poisonous, highly irritating or toxic. These products should also be marked as "poison." Use them with extreme care.
Precautionary Statements - The directions here refer to special safety measures you'll need to take. The need of protective clothing and safety equipment, as well as notes about use around pets and children, are in this section of the label.
First Aid - Instructions are here for dealing with swallowing, inhaling or contact with skin or eyes. If the pesticide is toxic, the label will give you emergency first aid instructions. Remember that first aid is exactly that - a quick remedy until medical assistance or advice can be obtained from a doctor or poison control agency. If you must call for medical assistance, have the container or label at hand.
Directions for Use - The pesticide is effective only if you follow the application instructions carefully. In addition to directions on the amount to use, you'll see information on when, where and how to apply. You can also confirm that the pesticide is the correct one for your pest and determine what other plants or animals it can be safely used on or around. In addition, the label states how soon you can pick and eat fruits and vegetables after application.
Storage and Disposal - These are the instructions for safe storage and disposal of leftover pesticide and empty containers. Because state and local ordinances vary, check with your local County Extension Office for more information.
Toxicity and Exposure determine the degree of possible injury. Exposure can occur in one of three ways:
- Dermal exposure occurs when the pesticide comes into contact with the skin. Some pesticides are highly corrosive to eyes and skin.
- Inhalation exposure occurs from breathing fumes or vapor when applying.
- Ingestion is less common, but still a concern if the user eats, drinks or smokes after applying a pesticide without first washing thoroughly.
Always keep pesticides away from the reach of children.