Pesticide Information:  Understanding the Pesticide Label

The information on the pesticide label represents the research, development, and registration procedures that a pesticide must undergo before reaching the market, which is paid for by the manufacturer.  The EPA requires a manufacturer to submit data from nearly 150 tests prior to the product’s approval for use. 

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.  Described below are the parts of a typical pesticide label.

Pesticide Sample badge with Numbers

1. Product classification

When a pesticide is classified as restricted, the label will state "Restricted Use Pesticide" at the top of the front panel. To purchase and apply restricted-use pesticides, you must be certified and licensed through the appropriate department in your state.

2. Trade Name/Brand Name

This is the name of the product that the manufacturer has created. Examples include "Sunspray", "Pounce", "Warrior', 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 liquid) (F or L): a thick liquid that contains 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 dispersible granules (or dry 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 pesticide classification  number. This is important to know because growers should rotate among classes to prevent resistance.

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 a common name of the more complicated chemical name. For example, the chemical name, 1-((6-Chloro-3-pyridinyl)methyl)-N-nitro-2-imidazolidinimine, is also known as imidacloprid.

6. Other/Inert Ingredients

These ingredients do not work to control the target pest directly, but are sometimes added to the product to improve effectiveness (as a dissolving agent, surfactant, etc.)

7. Net Contents

Net contents: 5 lb

8. EPA Registration Number

Every product has a unique registration number. This may or may not be on the front panel.

9. Manufacturer's Address

This may or may not be on the first panel.

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.
  • Danger: corrosive, and can cause irreversible eye damage or skin injury.
  • Warning: moderately toxic, and can cause moderate eye or skin irritation.
  • 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 this statement.

12. First Aid (May or may not be on the front panel)

This section recommends proper antidotes and treatment 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 includes precautionary statements indicating 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 are provided, and what specific action you need to take to avoid acute effects from exposure.

Personal Protective Equipment

Specific instructions are included regarding 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.

User Safety Recommendations

This section is usually surrounded by a box, and includes information on proper washing after handling the pesticide.

Environmental Hazards

An explanation is provided of potential hazards and the precautions needed to prevent injury or damage to non-target organisms or to the environment, especially preventing groundwater contamination.

Physical or Chemical Hazards

Explains hazards for fire, or other.

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

  • 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 interval
  • PPE requirements for early re-entry
  • 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.