Safe and legal use of pesticides requires that the entire label be followed, but some label information is particularly focused on safety. Some of this information is not required on all labels.
The signal word – Danger, Warning or Caution – is found on many labels, and indicates the acute level of toxicity if the product is swallowed, spilled on skin, splashed in eyes, or inhaled. Danger Poison with a Skull and Crossbones appears on the most toxic pesticides.
Products in the lowest toxicity category require no signal word; however, it is still important to read and follow the label.
Child Hazard Warning Statement
“Keep Out of Reach of Children” appears on almost all labels, unless the requirement is waived because the likelihood of contact with children is extremely remote.
Precautionary statements contain specific 1) hazards to humans and domestic animals, 2) environmental hazards, and 3) physical and chemical hazards:
- Hazards to Humans and Domestic Animals – this must be included if the product contains a Signal Word.
- Environmental Hazards – this contains any necessary warnings about surface waters, drift, organisms to which the product is highly toxic, etc.
- Physical and Chemical Hazards – this contains product-specific hazards such as flammability.
First Aid Statement
This explains the appropriate first aid if someone is exposed to the pesticide.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
This explains what to wear when handling a pesticide.
Restricted Entry Statement (REI)
This indicates the amount of time following a pesticide application when entry to the treated area is not allowed. A pesticide may have different REIs for different crops and sites.
Storage and Disposal
This provides guidelines such as temperature and flammability concerns for storage and recommended practices for proper disposal.
Mandatory, Advisory and Factual Statements on the Pesticide Label
It is important to understand the meaning of three different types of statements on the pesticide label.
- Mandatory Statements
- These direct the user to take or avoid specific actions, which are legally enforceable.
- They are written as directions:
- “Wash application equipment”
- “Wear chemical-resistant gloves”
- “Keep away from heat, sparks, and open flame”
- “Do not enter treated area for 12 hours”
- “Use medium or larger spray droplets”
- Advisory Statements
- These inform the user of optional actions, which are not legally enforceable.
- They are written in descriptive sentences that imply recommendations:
- “Barrier laminate gloves provide the best protection”
- “Applying the product immediately after mixing with water helps to ensure that it is in suspension”
- “Fire Ants–If possible, applications should be made on warm days after recent rainfall”
- Factual Statements
- These are neither mandatory nor advisory
- They provide facts about the product
- “Harmful if inhaled”
- “Contains 0.66 lbs. of active ingredient per gallon”
- “Pesticide wastes are acutely hazardous.”
Do not skim or skip through the label. Read each statement in context – the exact meaning of a sentence on the label often depends on the specific paragraph or section of the label.
Seek competent advice if there is something you don’t understand on the label. For example, contact the state agency that regulates pesticides, university Pesticide Safety Education Program, county or regional extension agents with pesticide responsibilities, or the product manufacturer.
Definitions of Some Important Terms Often Found on Pesticide Labels
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Clothing and equipment worn to reduce or prevent exposure to chemicals.
- Volatility: A characteristic of some substances to evaporate into a gas from the liquid or solid form.
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM): A science-based, decision-making process that identifies and reduces risks from pests and pest management related strategies. IPM coordinates the use of pest biology, environmental information, and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means, while minimizing risk to people, property, resources, and the environment.
- Resistance Management: Using multiple and diverse strategies to reduce or prevent the development of pest resistance to a pesticide.
- Rainfastness: The amount of time needed between application and rainfall, for a product to remain effective even if rainfall or irrigation occurs. The rainfastness of pesticides is highly variable.
- Spray Coverage: A combination of two factors; 1) the area of the target that is sprayed, and 2) the distribution of the droplets over that area.
- Active Ingredient: The ingredient(s) in a pesticide product that kills, repels, attracts, mitigates or controls a pest or that acts as a plant growth regulator, desiccant, or nitrogen stabilizer. Active ingredients must be identified by name on the pesticide product’s label together with its percentage by weight.
- Inert Ingredients: The ingredients in a formulated pesticide product that do not have pesticidal action, (e.g. solvents, emulsifiers, surfactants, clay and propellants).
- Drift: The movement of spray droplets off-target during or soon after an application.
- Droplet Size: A measure of the average size of spray droplets during an application. Managing the size of droplets is one of the important ways to manage spray drift. Larger, heavier droplets fall more quickly and are less affected by air movement, and therefore, are less likely to drift.
- Triple Rinse: A method of cleaning pesticide containers by rinsing the container 3 times. This method removes almost all of the pesticide residue.
- Calibration: The methods used to make sure your equipment is applying the correct amount and distribution of pesticide.
- Restricted Entry Intervals (REI): The amount of time following a pesticide application when entry into the treated area is not allowed. A pesticide may have different REIs for different crops and sites.
- Pre-harvest Interval (PHI): The amount of time required after a pesticide application has been completed, before the crop can be harvested. Each crop has its own PHI, and the PHI for a specific pesticide often varies by crop.
- Target Pests: The pests you are trying to control. Target pests listed on the label are the specific pests that the pesticide is labeled to control.
Pesticide laws are different in every state. The following links provide contact information for state pesticide regulators: