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Reading the Pesticide Label

What Does That Mean?


Every pesticide used in the U.S. must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To become registered, a pesticide must undergo an EPA review and approval process. Once registered, the pesticide is given a registration number (included on the label) showing that it has been accepted by EPA as able to be used with minimal risk if directions are properly followed.

EPA has very precise specifications for sections that manufacturers must include on pesticide labels, placement of those sections, and some required wording. In fact, the agency has an entire Label Review Manual dedicated to the process.

For the purposes of homeowner use, however, the following are the key sections included on pesticide labels and what each section tells you. Prior to using any pesticide, the product label, and booklet if included, should be read thoroughly and all directions followed for application.

The Pesticide Label includes:

Product Name or Trade Name

Pesticide type

  • the type of pest the product is intended for, e.g., insecticide, rodenticide, fungicide, etc.

Directions for use

  • the insect or animal that the product controls
  • how to use the product
  • where and when it can be used

may also include

  • a booklet on use
  • manufacturer's toll-free number for more information

Precautionary Statements

  • Hazard to Humans and Domestic Animals (if applicable)
    • any possible dangers to people and pets
    • ways to limit or eliminate the hazards to yourself or others. For example: wear gloves during use; keep children and pets away from the area until dry, etc.
  • Environmental Hazards (if applicable)
    • any dangers to non-target animals, wildlife, fish, and endangered animals
    • any potential negative effects on the environment, including wetlands and water resources
    • ways to limit or eliminate the hazards.
  • Physical or Chemical Hazards (if applicable)
    • direct product hazards, such as flammability or corrosivity
    • ways to limit or eliminate risk, such as keeping the product away from fire if the product is flammable

Storage and Disposal

  • directions for safe storage of the product proper disposal of unused product and/or the empty containers

Signal Words

  • unless the product is specifically intended for use on children (e.g., lice comb) or it is demonstrated that it will not come in contact with children, the label is to include the KOOROC statement: Keep Out Of Reach Of Children
  • additionally, every product will include one of the following to signal the level of hazard if eaten, inhaled or absorbed through the skin:
    • Caution – the product is slightly toxic, or it can cause slight eye or skin irritation.
    • Warning – product is moderately toxic or can cause moderate eye or skin irritation.
    • Danger/Danger-Poison – product is highly toxic, or it may cause irreversible damage to skin or eyes. When applicable, the word POISON must also be included in red letters on the front product label.

First Aid

  • a statement of practical treatment for action if the pesticide is swallowed or inhaled, or gets in the eyes of on the skin.
  • may contain "Note to Physicians." Whether this additional medical information is included or not, anytime a doctor is needed for pesticide ingestion or contact, it is wise to take the product container to aid in his/her treatment.


  • Active
    • a listing of the "active" pesticides or toxins in the product that control or kill the pest.
    • percent of product that is active ingredient(s).
  • Other (Inert) Ingredients
    • these ingredients may or may not be specifically named; they are used as carriers. of the active ingredient, or have other purposes to assist in the effectiveness and/or dispersal of the product.
    • the percentage of these ingredients will generally be shown as a whole.

Contains Statement

  • weight or volume of product within the container.

Warranty Statement (voluntary)

  • a disclaimer from the manufacturer intended to limit liability.
  • or a warranty of the product.


  • Name and address of manufacturer or distributor, may also contain a phone number.
  • Net weight or net contents disclosing amount of product in the container.
  • EPA registration number specific to this product.
  • EPA establishment number where the final phase of production took place.

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