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Illinois Country Living

Jodie Tate
Jodie Tate, Natural Resources Mgt. Educator, University of Illinois Extension Springfield Center

Safety & Health:

Poisons Lurking Around Your Home
Why you should always read and follow pesticide label directions

In honor of the coming lawn season, I did a bit of research on reading labels; and learned quite a bit in the process.

For instance, all pesticide labels contain the statements, “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling,” and, “Keep Out of Reach of Children.” Go ahead, check a few containers. I did.

In addition, there is a signal word on the label telling how dangerous the product is to humans. DANGER is the highest, it means highly toxic. WARNING is defined as moderately toxic. CAUTION is the lowest, or slightly toxic.

Under the Precautionary Statements section you will find information on how to protect the individual applying the product and any others that may be exposed, including pets. Read this section carefully.

Make note of the Statement of Practical Treatment, as it contains information on what to do in case of an accidental poisoning. All DANGER labels will contain a note to physicians outlining treatment and listing an antidote, if one is available; important information to take with you to the emergency room, in case of accidental poisoning. In fact, always take the label with you if accidental poisoning occurs, even for products labeled WARNING or CAUTION.

Another item listed under the Precautionary Statements is the Environmental Hazards Statement. It warns of potential dangers to the environment. Some may choose to skip this section, but the first time you kill off the goldfish in your water garden or cripple your crop of tomatoes, you will understand why I highly recommend reading this information. Also, setback guidelines (how far away from a specific site you must be before applying the product) will be outlined here.

The Directions for Use heading is where you will find the misuse statement mentioned above (“It is a violation of federal law…..inconsistent with its labeling”). In simple terms, it makes you responsible for use of the product. On a bigger scale, the courts generally recognize the label as a binding contract, requiring you to use the product exactly as directed. If you do not, you are using the product illegally.

What is the main reason to read the Directions For Use section? It tells you what pests are controlled by the product, mixing or dilution rates, application rates, equipment you will need for application, how often to apply, etc. Basically, it tells you how to use the product successfully. Good information to know from the beginning. It is always frustrating to discover after the fact that you now have to wait 14 days before eating any of those apples on your tree.

Pay special attention to the Re-entry or Restricted Entry Statement. It explains how long to wait after application before entering a treated area. It typically provides the same information for pets, if necessary, too. If a statement is not provided, the legal interval is assumed to be when sprays are dry (liquid application) or dust is settled.

Another section to read carefully is Storage and Disposal. Proper storage of the product is important if you plan on using the product again. Disposal of leftover product is best accomplished at a Household Hazardous Waste collection site. Contact your local municipality to see if your community hosts such an event. If they do not, contact your Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to locate the nearest collection site.

If you have a container with the label partially missing, worn off, etc. search for it at This site contains labels for all agriculture, turf and ornamental products.

I know it is time consuming, and sometimes requires a magnifying glass, but it really is worth the extra five minutes of time to read the label on a product. In fact, doing it before you purchase the product might save you time, money and another trip to the store.


For More Information:

Jodie Tate, Natural Resources Mgt. Educator, University of Illinois Extension Springfield Center, PO Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791, (217) 782-6515.


© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
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