Up for a bit of light reading? Before you use any pesticide product, you should read and understand the product’s label, found wrapped around the can or attached to the face of the concentrate bottle. We know that product labels can get a bit wordy and confusing – we read them every day here at Bed Bug Supply – so we’ve put together a brief guide explaining what each part of the label means.
While every label is a bit different in its arrangement and contents, there are some terms that will be present on all of them. However, these terms aren’t always as simple to understand as we’d like them to be.
Federal EPA registration is the most common. If a product isn’t approved and registered by the EPA, it may not be safe to use, or even effective at treating the pest you’re targeting. Some products have SLN or Section 24/ 24(c) registrations. These are special local needs registrations, which allow states to further control how the product is used. SLN-registered products will come with supplemental labeling that outlines those details.
If an emergency pest situation arises and no pesticide is registered to handle the job, an emergency exemption may be used to make a product available in time. These exemptions are called “Section 18” exemptions, and allow a product to be sold and used for an unregistered purpose for a specified period of time. Strict controls and sales records are required.
Restricted use pescticide (RUP): Some of the uses of a restricted-use product could cause harm to humans or to the environment unless the product is applied by certified applicators who know how to use it safely and effectively. RUPs can only be used by certified applicators, or workers under a certified applicator’s supervision.
General use pesticide (GUP): In most cases, anyone can use GUPs without being certified, as long as they take care to follow the instructions on the label.
Signal words indicate the toxicity and relative danger of a product that’s improperly handled. These words may appear in a couple of different places on the label, but their respective meanings are fairly universal:
DANGER is highly toxic, and very likely to cause illness or irritation.
WARNING is moderately likely to cause illnesses or irritation.
CAUTION is slightly toxic or relatively nontoxic, with only slight potential to cause illness or irritation.
Click on the image for an enlarged version.
What’s on the label:
Brand Name: This is the common name used in marketing and sales, and is clearly seen near the top of the label. Take care when shopping for products by their brand name: some manufacturers will use the same brand name for products with very different ingredients, with only minor changes in the designated name for each product. Conversely, the same pesticide is often sold by many companies under completely different brand names.
Ingredient Statement: This is a list of the active ingredients used in the pesticide, and their percentage of the total chemical makeup. Generally, the active ingredients are the only chemicals worth noting, as the rest of the product is often water or some form of propellant or stabilizing agent.
Common Name: Often, chemicals with very complex names are given a shorter common name in the ingredient statement. Only common names that are acknowledged and accepted by the EPA may be used on a label.
EPA Registration Number: This number (EPA Reg. No. XXXXX-XXX) indicates that the label has been approved by the EPA. The first set of numbers identifies the manufacturer, and the second identifies the product. There may sometimes be letters added to identify a state that the label is specifically made for, or a 4-digit distributor number for specific distributors.
SLN Registration Number: If a product has supplementary lebeling for special local need uses, that labeling will have an SLN registration number on it. This registration starts with the state, then is followed by numbers identifying the individual product.
Establishment Number: This number (EPA Est. No. XXXX-XX-X) identifies the facility that manufactures the product in case there are questions or concerns. The first set of numbers identifies the manufacturer, followed by the state of production, then by the individual location number.
Manufacturer Info: Federal law requires that the manufacturer’s name and address be included on the label. This allows consumers to call the manufacturer directly for questions or concerns.
Net Contents: Like most packaged products, pesticides typically tell you the weight or volume of a full container. This could be in ounces or pounds for a dry formula, or in fluid ounces, pints, quarts, or gallons for liquids. Remember that in diluted products, this is not how much of the active ingredients is contained; that is sometimes listed as a separate number, but usually isn’t listed at all.
Restricted-Use Designation: If the pesticide is classified as restricted, a box at the top of the front panel will say so and will explain why. This will be a short statement listing the uses allowed, the regulations in place, and the hazards that led to the restriction.
First Aid Guide: As required by law, most labels will offer practical treatment methods for common hazardous exposures, such as swallowing the product or getting it in your eyes. The guide may also include notes to physicians on treating poisoning or other results of exposure.
Precautionary Statements: This section briefly describes the possible risks associated with exposure or misuse of the product. It covers a wide range of risks, from simple acute exposure to possible environmental hazards. Some labels will also include a personal protective equipment (PPE) statement; this describes what equipment is required to safely handle the product, ranging from gloves and goggles to full hazardous material suits.
Directions for Use: As stated on every pesticide label, it is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. That means it’s very important that you read, understand, and follow the directions for using the product, including where you can and can’t apply the chemical, how to mix it, and what pests it targets. This section will also include storage and disposal instructions, which are very important for safe handling of the product after you apply it.
IMPORTANT CLOSING NOTE: According to the law and current regulation, it is YOUR responsibility to understand how to safely and effectively use the product, including where and how it is meant to be used. If any damage, illness, or injury occurs as a result of misuse of the product, no one will be held liable except the user.