How to read a pesticide label

Every pesticide label contains very important information, so reading the label is your first move to keep yourself and the environment safe. And don’t just skim over to the good parts — what may look to you like blah-blah-blah details may be critical. Here’s how to decipher one key component of every label, signal words.

SIGNAL WORDS All pesticides must have the phrase “Keep Out of Reach of Children.” But four other words indicate increasing levels of toxicity: Caution, Warning, Danger and Danger/Poison (with a skull and crossbones symbol). Toxic effects range from minor skin irritations to making you sick to fatal poisoning. In this case, “Danger” means exposure to even small amounts of the concentrate can make you sick or cause burning irritation to eyes and skin.

MIXED SIGNALS? After looking at this label, you might ask how the words “Danger,” “People and Pet Safe” and “For Organic Gardening” can all be on the same label. It may seem contradictory, especially when the same product in a ready-to-use spray bottle only has the word “Caution” on it. First, even organic products can be toxic. Second, this is a concentrate, so exposure to the chemical in this form will cause a harsher reaction than the diluted form.


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