Caution! Warning! Danger! The Devil Lies in the Details (Pest Prevention Series, Part III)

June 15, 2019

 Pesticide labels are federal documents. Every label must contain certain information. Here we will take a look at what is required.


It is very important to read the label before purchasing the product to be certain that it has been approved for use on the pest you want to impact. Information on the label will also help you choose the least toxic option.


(Photo: Caution! Product toxicity is indicated, in graduated order, by the key words CAUTION, WARNING and DANGER. Roundup is Caution, or toward the lower end of poison.) 


The brand name of the product is the first thing on the label. This is followed by the type of formulation. In other words, is it a pre-mixed solution, an aerosol, granules, bait or a dry powder you must mix with water? This is followed by a list of ingredients and the common name of the pesticide  In addition, there must be a statement of its classification. Garden centers do not carry products that are not for general use, but there are products that are only for professionals.


 Funginex is danger. grass killer is warning. Roundup is caution.

The label also tells you how much product is in the container as well as the name and address of the manufacturer. The factory must have an “establishment” number which is issued by the EPA. The product itself must have an EPA-issued registration number on every label which indicates that it has been approved for a particular use. In addition, states may restrict use of the product.


Review the “precautionary” statements. This will tell you what protective gear is needed to safely use the product as well as how to treat suspected poisoning. When applying pesticides always wear long sleeves, pants and shoes with socks. Because the chemicals are absorbed through the skin, wearing chemical-resistant gloves is a very good idea.


 (Photo: Warning!) 


The next important part to read is the approved use of the product. “Off label” use of pesticides is against the law. It is also illegal to apply insecticides while pollinators are active. Review any environmental hazards to learn if the product can be used on food crops as well as how much time must pass after treatment before harvest is


allowed. This section will also tell you how to clean equipment after use. It is never OK to pour pesticide residue down the drain or into storm drains.


(Photo: Danger!)


Finally we come to the “signal” words which tell us about the product’s toxicity. “Caution” indicates relatively low toxicity. The majority of products in garden centers fall into this category. “Warning” means that the product is moderately toxic. I found very few of these in my survey of garden centers. “Danger,” often coupled with a picture of a skull and crossbones, means that this is a highly toxic poison. Store all pesticides in the original containers out of the reach of children and pets, preferably in a locked cabinet.


There are times when a gardener may need a pesticide. But read the label twice

 before applying: first in the store before purchase and again just before using.             


Master gardener Ann Bartlett gave up spraying pesticides on her prize roses years ago, as faithful readers of her column will have gathered. But that doesn't mean she couldn't trot out the big guns if she had to.

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