How to Read a Pesticide Label

Pesticide label directions should be followed at all times. They show what the product is and how to use it safely and effectively. They usually have the same sections arranged in a similar way. Always read the label before starting a spraying job. Even if you have used the product before, you need to remind yourself of the safety directions. If you purchase a new batch, check that the proportion of active ingredients has not changed. In case of accidental poisoning, take the product to show the medical practitioner. The words ‘anti-cholinesterase’ on the label, for example, would indicate the way in which the nervous system is affected and what actions should be taken to counteract the poison.

Toxicity of home garden chemicals

Some gardeners are concerned about the toxicity of pesticides available to the home gardeners. All pesticides go through rigorous appraisal by government officers before they are registered and permitted to be sold. Registration authorities closely examine all aspects of the compound – its toxicity and mode of action, the length of its life on the plant or in the soil, its shelf life (that is, its ability to maintain its essential integrity in storage), the manner and time it takes to break down, its effect on wildlife and domestic pets, and many other considerations.

In the main, the more toxic products are not registered for use by home gardeners but are restricted to commercial horticulture and agriculture where users are expected to undergo chemical user training. A good guide to the toxicity of a particular home garden product can be determined by checking the top of the label on the front of the container. At that position on all pesticide labels, written statements are required and these vary according to the toxicity of the product. Those marked ‘Poison’ are the most toxic compounds. Slightly less toxic are those marked ‘Caution’. Those products which have low toxicity with a higher degree of safety for humans are simply marked, ‘Keep out of Reach of Children’ and/or ‘Read Safety Directions’ and/or nothing.

The withholding period

This is an important piece of information that is often found on products registered for controlling pests on fruit and vegetables. The withholding period is the time that must be allowed to elapse after application of a pesticide before the crop can be harvested and eaten. If a product registered for application to fruit or vegetables does not show a withholding period (e.g. Dipel) it means that the fruit or vegetables can be eaten straight away (but it’s always best to wash them first).


This area is for general comments from members of the public. Some questions or comments may not receive a reply from Yates. For all consumer related enquiries, please contact us.