Reading the Label
When selecting and using pesticides, the product label directions must be followed to make sure the product works properly and is used safely. In fact, the label is the law. It is actually a violation of federal law to use a pesticide product in a different manner than its instructions detail. This includes the amount of product that should be applied, the size of area that it is designed to control, and, if necessary, how it should be diluted or mixed before use.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the pesticide label process to verify that all required information is included and to provide some consistency among labels. While each product may present the information a bit differently, the following information can be found on each pesticide label:
- Product name.
- Active and inactive ingredients. “Active ingredients” refers to the product contents that control the bugs, weeds, rodents or other pests. The percentage of the product represented by each active ingredient is also listed, and, often, active ingredients represent a relatively small portion of the product. “Inactive” or “other” ingredients represent compounds present in the product that are not responsible for the control of the pests. These ingredients play a variety of roles, including making the product easier to use or allowing it to dissolve more effectively.
- Directions for Use. Instructions for application amounts and timing, the size of area that should be treated, and instructions for mixing or diluting the product, if necessary.
- Precautionary statements. These statements outline potential effects in regards to health and the environment of which to be aware when using the product.
- Storage and Disposal. Properly storing and disposing pesticide products is as important as properly using the product.
- First Aid Guidelines. Instructions for what to do if, for example, the product gets in someone’s eyes or is swallowed.
- Important Phone Numbers. A phone number for product questions, which will connect you to a manufacturer representative and those for use if the product is improperly used or someone is overexposed are listed on the label.
- Manufacturer Address. All pesticide product labels will provide the name and address of the manufacturer who produced the product.
- EPA Registration Number and Establishment Number. The EPA registration number demonstrates that the product has been reviewed by the EPA and approved for sale and use in the United States as it represents minimal risk if used correctly. The EPA establishment number indicates the facility at which the final stage of product production took place.
U.S. EPA's web site has a generic product label for you to review and help familiarize yourself with the information to look for when selecting and using the product. In addition, following steps to “Choose Right, Use Right” will help you make sure you’ve found the best product for your situation and that you are using it properly.
Tips for selecting granular and liquid products are available for you in both English and Spanish. These tips can be printed to take with you when purchasing a pest control product or reviewing the pesticides you may already have.