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Ohio State University Extension


Reading Pesticide Labels

Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training for Operators and Supervisors
Agricultural Safety and Health Program

Objective: To read and understand pesticide labels before using the chemicals.

Trainer’s Note

Pesticide labels explain how to safely apply the chemical. For this training module, show some labels and discuss what they say, how to use the information and why it is important. NOTE: Do not use the label on an open container for demonstration purposes. Get some sample labels from a dealer or use unopened pesticides. Review the true or false quiz.


Before applying pesticides, know what the label says! The chemical formulation, signal word, precautionary statements, personal protective equipment statements, application method, and the projected length of exposure are indicated on the label. By reading and understanding the label, pesticides can be used safely and correctly.

Read the Label

  • Before purchasing the pesticide. It must be registered for your intended use, and you must make sure there are no restrictions that would prohibit its use.
  • Before mixing and applying the pesticide. Understand how to mix and safely apply the pesticide, and know the first aid needed if an accident should occur.
  • When storing pesticides. To prevent breakdown, contamination, and fire hazards, know how to properly store pesticides. The farm chemical storage center should also be securely locked.
  • Before disposing of unused pesticide and empty containers. To prevent environmental contamination and human health hazards.

The Label Contains

  • Brand name. The name given to the pesticide by the manufacturer.
  • Chemical name. The name given to the pesticide by chemists to describe the chemical structure.
  • Common name. For clarity, most pesticides have an assigned official common name. Common names and brand names are not the same and not all labels will list a common name. For example, horticultural oil is a common name.
  • Formulation. Pesticide labels always list the formulation type. Some examples are emulsifiable concentrate (EC), wettable powder (WP), or soluble powder (SP).
  • Ingredients. The label lists the percentage of active and inert ingredients by weight. Inert ingredients are those components that do not have pesticidal action.
  • Contents. Labels list the net contents, by weight or liquid volume, contained within the package.
  • Manufacturer. The label always has the name and address of the manufacturer of the product on it.
  • Registration and Establishment Numbers. The numbers assigned by the EPA and other registering agencies such as the state.
  • Signal Word. Part of the registration process assigns each pesticide to a toxicity category and prescribes which signal word must be used on the label. The statement “keep out of reach of children” must also appear with signal words on the label of all pesticides.
Category Signal Word on Label
High Toxicity DANGER
Moderately Toxic WARNING
Low Toxicity CAUTION
Relatively Non-Toxic NONE
  • Precautionary Statements. These describe the hazards associated with the chemical. They also list adverse effects and state which PPE must be worn. (Proper PPE should be determined before purchasing the product.)
  • Statement of Practical Treatment. This tells what to do in case of accidental exposure.
  • Statement of Use Classification. The EPA classifies pesticides as either general use or restricted-use. Restricted-use pesticides can harm people, animals, or the environment.
  • Directions for Use. The directions tell how to apply the pesticide.Person with goggles and respirator reading a bag of chemicals to check usage directions
    • They include how much to use, where to use it and when to apply it.
    • They also include the preharvest interval for all crops whenever appropriate.
  • Misuse Statement. This tells users to apply pesticides according to label directions.
  • Re-Entry Interval (REI) Statement. Sometimes, a certain amount of time must pass before a person can re-enter an area treated with a pesticide. This amount of time is called the REI.
  • Storage and Disposal Directions. Improper storage can cause some pesticides to lose their effectiveness. It can also cause an explosion or fire.
  • Warranty. The label informs you of your rights as a purchaser. It also limits the manufacturer’s liability. The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) also contains information on the pesticide.

Review the Following Points

  • Always read the labels before applying pesticides.
  • Know what the warnings are and what they mean.
  • Understand the differences between toxicity levels.

About These Modules

The Ag Tailgate Training Series was developed by members of the Agricultural Safety and Health Program in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Revised by Dee Jepsen, State Agricultural Safety Leader, with editing assistance by Lisa Pfeifer and Cody McClain.

True or False Answer Key

  1. F
  2. T
  3. F
  4. T
  5. T

Quiz: Reading Pesticide Labels



True or False?    

1. Storage and disposal instructions won’t be found on the label and therefore are unimportant. T F
2. One should read the label to know how to mix and safely apply the pesticide. T F
3. The common name is the same as the brand name of a pesticide. T F
4. “Danger” on the label means high toxicity. T F
5. Read the label to find out what PPE to use.   T F






Originally posted Aug 2, 2019.