Between food labels, warranty stickers, and insurance policies, countless words jump out at us every day. Each one tries to grab our attention, and we know that each is probably important for something, but who can keep up?
The agricultural pesticide label is a monster of numbers, classifications, rules, directions, and recommendations. When the words tangle you up, remember: all that fine print is there to help us.
If we labeled people like we do pesticides, life would be easy. Listed front and center would be someone’s name, what they’re useful for, and the manufacturer and registration number in case you’d like to order a fresh one. When that person gets of hand, there would be rules and instructions laid out for how to handle them. There would even be guidelines for storage and disposal – right above the warranty.
If the rest of life can’t be so simple, at least pesticide safety can. The agricultural pesticide label gives all that information and more, and is produced for our protection by the registering manufacturer and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On it are several kinds of information that, upon handling that pesticide, you’ll need to know. Read up: one pesticide may have VERY different information than the next.
- Identifiers – You might call it Roundup (its brand name), glyphosate (its main active ingredient), or even 524-445 (its EPA registration number): it’s all the same product. This identifying information and more is found at the top of any pesticide label.
- Precautions – Careful! Pesticides are made to kill a specific living thing, and can certainly harm humans too. This section of the label has critical health and safety information like human and environmental hazards, first aid, and required personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Directions – This section discusses the who, what, when where, why, and how to use the pesticide. That includes uses in and out of agriculture, how much to use, how to store and dispose of it, and more user specifics.
- Sale Conditions – The pesticide manufacturer must share its name and address, and appropriate emergency contact numbers.
The point of the label is to keep the user informed about what they are using and how to use it. With so much information in a small place, it can be hard to absorb. If you see an extra long label, it may be because the manufacturer has printed it in multiple languages to help international users.
The biggest way the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) try make pesticide information more accessible is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS, or just SDS). The SDS looks similar, but is not the same as the pesticide label. Its job, being created by OSHA under the Hazard Communication Standard, is to dig into potential safety hazards of the material at hand, and describe how to address them.
If handling a pesticide, you should be very familiar with the information on the label. However, if an emergency occurs, reach for the material’s SDS that every providing employer is legally required to have handy.
All the information on pesticides labels – including on those in the household like cockroach killer and bleach – is there for good reason. We on the AFOP Health & Safety team are here to help with education to boost label literacy, among our many other training topics. Respect the fine print to keep yourself, others, and the environment safe from the harmful effects of pesticides.
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