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Pesticide Use and Safety - Understanding the Label


As Extension personnel, we are constantly advising to “read the pesticide label” before making any applications. Understanding the material you are using, how it is applied, and in what rate, is important for the safety of yourself, others, the host plant, and the environment. Also, proper application is required by law.

The information on the pesticide label represents the research, development and registration procedures that a pesticide must undergo before reaching the market, frequently at a cost of millions of dollars to the manufacturer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires a manufacturer to submit data from nearly 150 tests prior to that product’s approval for use. The pesticide use information obtained in this process is referred to as the label or labeling, two similar words but with different meanings.

Familiarity with the pesticide label is crucial to selecting the most appropriate pesticide products for your use and therefore receiving maximum benefit from their use. Information contained on most labels can be divided into four major categories: safety, environmental, product and use information.

resticted use pesticide

Product Information

Product classification: When a pesticide is classified as restricted, the label will state DzRestricted Use Pesticide” at the top of the front panel. Below this heading may be a reason for the restriction. To purchase and apply restricted-use pesticides, you must be certified and licensed through the Utah Department of Agriculture.

2 Trade Name/Brand Name: This is the name of the product that the manufacturer has created. Examples include “PyGanic,” “Battalion,” “Oberon,” etc.

3 Formulation

        • emulsifiable concentrate (EC): an oil-based liquid solution plus an emulsifier that, when mixed with water, forms a milky solution; requires moderate agitation; easy to handle and apply
        • flowable (or liuid) (F or L): the active ingredient has been imbedded in an inert solid and ground to a fine powder; requires moderate agitation; easy to handle and apply
        • solution (S): the active ingredient mixes readily with liquid and does not separate
        • wettable powder (WP): dust-like formulation that does not dissolve in water and must be constantly agitated to remain in suspension
        • soluble powder (SP): a powder formulation that readily forms a suspension in water; a rare formulation because few pesticide active ingredients are soluble in water
        • water dis’ersible granules (or dr› flowables) (WDG or DF): small granules that, when mixed with water, disperse to fine particles; constant agitation required
        • water soluble packets (WSP): a wettable or soluble powder that has been pre-measured into a plastic bag that dissolves in the tank water

4 Mode of action:This information is sometimes included on a label, and provides the classification group number.

5 Active Ingredient: The active ingredient, or A.I., is the material that is working to kill the target pest. On a label, the percentage of the A.I. is provided. The A.I. is usually listed as an EPA-approved common name of the chemical. For example, the chemical name for imidacloprid is 1-((6-Chloro-3-pyridinyl) methyl)-N-nitro-2-imidazolidinimine.

6 Other/Inert Ingredients: These ingredients do not work to control the target pest, but are sometimes added to the product to improve effectiveness (as a dissolving agent, surfactant, etc.).

7 Net contents

8 EPA registration number: this may or may not be on the first panel

9 Manufacturer’s address: this may or may not be on the first panel.

Safety and Environmental Information

10 Signal Word:Each pesticide label has a “signal word”.

        • “Danger-Poison”: accompanied by a red skull and crossbones, and means that the product can be fatal or illness can occur if swallowed, absorbed, or inhaled. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, or using tobacco.
        • “Danger”: corrosive and can cause irreversible eye damage or skin injury
        • “Warning”: moderately toxic, and can cause moderate eye or skin irritation. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling.
        • “Caution”: mildly toxic, but can cause slight eye or skin irritation.

11 Keep Out of Reach of Children Warning: The front panel of every pesticide label must bear the statement.

12 First Aid: (May or may not be on front panel) It is in this section that proper antidotes and treatment are recommended for medical personnel treating a victim. For this reason, always take the pesticide label with you if you need to visit an emergency medical facility. Products labeled DANGER also bear an 800 telephone number that physicians may call for further treatment advice.

13 Precautionary Statements:

        • Hazards to Humans and Domestic Animals: This part of the label indicates specific hazards, routes of exposure, and precautions to be taken to avoid human and animal injury, based on the signal word. Protection for mouth, skin, eyes, or lungs you must are provided and what specific action you need to take to avoid acute effects from exposure to the pesticide.
        • Personal protective equipment:This area provides specific instructions concerning the type of clothing that must be worn during the handling and mixing processes. The personal protective equipment listed is the minimum protection that should be worn while handling the pesticide. In some cases, reduced personal protective equipment is allowed when you will be applying the pesticide in safer situations, such as enclosed cabs.
        • User safety recommendations: Includes information on proper washing after handling the pesticide.
        • Environmental hazards: An explanation of the nature of potential hazards and the precautions needed to prevent injury or damage to nontarget organisms or to the environment, especially preventing groundwater contamination.
        • Physical or chemical hazards: Explains hazards for fire, or other.

Use Information

14 Directions for Use:This section usually makes up the bulk of a pesticide label and always begins with the wording: “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in any manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Products intended for use in agriculture will have an Agricultural Use Requirement box included in this section. It will state that the Worker Protection Standard applies to the product.

Directions for use include:

        • the crops to which the product may be applied
        • the pests that the product targets
        • amount to use
        • method of application
        • timing of application
        • pre-harvest interval
        • re-entry period
        • other limitations

15 Storage and Disposal: Storage information such as temperature and light requirements, are provided to prevent the breakdown of the material. Most liquid or flowable formulations have minimum storage temperature requirements. This section also explains how to deal with the unused portion of the product and the container.