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household hazardous waste - how to read a pesticide label

The labeling of pesticides is much more complicated than most other chemical products. This is necessary because many pesticides are more toxic than other chemicals found around the home. Warnings, use specifications, and directions must be much more complete and detailed.

You can tell the toxicity of a pesticide by looking at the signal word on the label. Pesticides are classified into Toxicity Categories I-IV (Category I is the most toxic, IV the least toxic). The signal words and the precautionary statements required on the label are different for each category. The following Toxicity Rating Scale indicates the requirements for pesticide labels.



If the label has this signal word...

This is how toxic the product is*

Highly Toxic


Few drops to one teaspoon

Moderately Toxic


One teaspoon to one ounce

Slightly Toxic


Over one ounce

Not Toxic

Not required


*Approximate amount needed kill an average person.


Oral inhalation or dermal toxicity - Fatal if swallowed (inhaled or absorbed through skin). Do not breath vapor (dust or spray mist). Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on clothing. (Front panel statement of treatment required.)

Skin and eye local effects - Corrosive, causes eye and skin damage (or skin irritation). Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on clothing. Wear goggles or face shield and rubber gloves when handling. Harmful or fatal if swallowed. (Appropriate first aid statement required.)

Oral inhalation or dermal toxicity - May be fatal if swallowed (inhaled or absorbed through the skin). Do not breath vapors (dust or spray mist). Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on
clothing. (Appropriate first aid statement required.)

Skin and eye local effects - Causes eye (and skin) irritation. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing. Harmful if swallowed.
(Appropriate first aid statement required.)

Oral inhalation or dermal toxicity - May be fatal if swallowed (inhaled or absorbed through the skin). Do not breath vapors (dust or spray mist). Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on
clothing. (Appropriate first aid statement required.)

Skin and eye local effects - Avoid contact with skin, eyes, or clothing. In case of contact, immediately flush eyes or skin with plenty of water. Get medical attention if irritation persists.

No precautionary statement required. No precautionary statement required.


1. ZAPPO (Brand name. The name, brand, or trademark is plainly displayed on the front panel of the product label. The brand name is the name used in ads by the company that makes the product and is the most identifiable name for the product.)

2. Tranziapon Insect Spray (Common name. All chemicals have a scientific name. Chemicals with a complex scientific name are often given a common name, as well. Both the scientific name and the common name of the chemical will be the same for every company. The brand name will differ depending on which company made the chemical.)

3. Active Ingredients by wt.
Tranziapon*……………………………...  49%
Petroleum Derivative Solvent … …34%
Inert Ingrediennts……………………    17%

3 Ditransudate of cismercapto pontificate

(Ingredients statement. Every pesticide label must list what is in the product. It must show the percentage of the active ingredients and the percentage of the inert ingredients. The names of the active ingredients must be shown either by chemical name or common and chemical name. At present, inert ingredients do not need to be listed. New labeling regulations, however, will require toxic inert ingredients to be listed.)

4. Makes up to 24 gallons. Diluted spray kills insects: Aphids, Red Spider Mites, Flies, Mealy-Bugs, and Scales. (Type of formulation. A pesticide may be available in more than one type of formulation - liquids, wettable powders, emulsifiable concentrations, dusts, and others. Different types of formulations require different methods of handling. The label will say what type of formulation the package contains and how to use it properly.)

5. Caution: Keep out of reach of children (Child hazard warning. Every pesticide container must bear the statement “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN” on the front label.)

6. Net contents 8 fl. oz. Store in a cool, dry place, read entire label. Use in accordance with label cautions and directions. Keep original container. Do not put concentrate or dilute into food or drink container. (Net contents. The label must show how much product is in the container. This can be expressed in ounces, liters, pounds or other units.)

7. Directions: Spray thoroughly on infested plant parts. Repeat as necessary. Household pests (Roaches, Ants, Flies): 2 Tablespoons per gallon of water. Spray on area frequented by insects. Avoid contamination of food, dishes, utensils and water. Repeat as necessary. Vegetables: (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Beans, Peas, Potatoes): 1 TBSP per gallon water. Do not apply to Broccoli and Peas within 3 days of harvest and to Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower or Kale with 7 days of harvest. Do not apply to Beans within 1 day of harvest. Use up to harvest on Potatoes. (Directions for use. The instructions on the label must tell you how to use the product properly within its legal requirements for the best results. The directions will tell you:

  • The pests the product is registered to control.
  • The crops, animals, or other items the products can be used on.
  • In what form the product should be applied.
  • How to apply the product.
  • How much to use.
  • Where it should be applied.
  • When it should be applied.
  • How frequently it should be applied.
  • How soon the crop may be used or eaten after the product is
  • applied.)

8. Caution: Harmful if swallowed. Do not breathe vapor or spay mist. Avoid contact with skin; wash skin and hands thoroughly after using. Avoid contamination of food. Keep children and animals away from treated areas until the areas are dry. If poison occurs, call a physician immediately. Note to Physicians: Emergency Information--call (123) 456-7890. Atropine is antidotal. Do not use, pour, spill or store near heat or open flame. Food utensils such as teaspoons or tablespoons should not be used for food purposes after use with pesticide. Do not reuse container. Dispose of container when empty. This product will kill fish. Keep out of any body of water. Do not contaminate water by cleaning of equipment or disposal of wastes. Apply this product only as specified on this label. This product is highly toxic to bees. Protective information may be obtained from your Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service. (Warning or caution statements. The label must tell you the type of hazard the product poses [corrosive, flammable, toxic, etc.] and how to avoid the hazard. If the pesticide is highly toxic, this section must inform physicians of the proper treatment for poisoning. Whether or not the product is highly toxic, the label should also state what types of exposure require medical attention. 

If a poisoning occurs, call your local emergency number or contact the Regional Poison Center for advice. Be sure to provide label information to the treating medical personnel. Emergency first aid measures must be stated on the label; however, antidotes are not always in keeping with current medical recommendations.
Warning and caution statements will also tell you in what ways the product may be poisonous to humans and domestic animals.

Although labels include recommendations on wearing protective clothing and ensuring adequate ventilation, more information in this area than is legally required is needed on the labels of pesticides. Types of safety equipment are not always clearly defined, nor is it always clear how much ventilation is adequate [an open window, exhaust fan, or use outdoors].

Labels may contain environmental precautions applying to air, water, or wildlife. Pesticides or pesticide residues may contaminate water supplies, accumulate to dangerous levels in the environment, or may harm birds, fish, or other wildlife.)

9. NOTICE: Buyer assumes all responsibility for safety and use not in accordance with directions. (Misuse statement. To use a pesticide product in any manner inconsistent with its labeling is a violation of federal law. You are reminded of this in the misuse statement.)

10. Product 1223344 EPA Reg. No. 0000 EPA Est 111-22 (Registration and establishment numbers. Every pesticide on the market must be registered with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA registration number must be on the front panel of the label. The establishment number—a code for the factory that makes the chemical—must also be on every pesticide container. It usually appears under the registration number.)

11. Chemico Chemical Company, 100 Main Street, Beaverton, MD 54321 (Name and address of manufacturer. The name and address of the company that made or distributed the product must be on the label. This way, the purchaser of the product knows who made or sold the product and can contact them if necessary. Companies will also provide you with a materials safety data sheet upon request.)

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