Sunday | December 17, 2017
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When using pesticides: Follow label directions

By Russell T. Nagata

University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Komohana Research and Extension Center, Hilo

When using pesticides whether organic or conventional, the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you is to read and understand the label.

The label and attached pamphlet provide very important information on how and when to use the product and what to use it on. Most obvious things on the front label are the trade name of the pesticide, a signal word on toxicity, manufacturer’s name and “Keep Out of Reach of Children.”

In smaller print will be the name of the active ingredient (chemical does the killing or inhibits pest and disease) and the percentage of the active ingredient(s). The additional information on the back label or attached pamphlet will contain instruction on the use of the product.

The signal word on the label on nearly every pesticide will be “CAUTION,” “WARNING” or “DANGER.” This signal word is not related to how well the product works against the listed pest, but is intended to quickly inform the user about the product’s toxicity to the user.

“CAUTION” means that the pesticide is slightly toxic if ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled. It may also cause slight eye and skin irritation.

“WARNING” indicates moderate toxicity if eaten, absorbed through the skin and inhaled and can cause moderate irritation to eyes and skin.

“DANGER” is for the most toxic pesticides and can cause irreversible damage or death through contact. If a choice is available, select pesticides with a “CAUTION” label first to solve your problems before selecting those with a more toxic signal word.

How many of you take the time to fully read and understand the label?

You might ask, “What is the big deal? I spray roaches with flying insect spray and it works.”

There are some of you who claim that you don’t use pesticide in your garden since you are following organic protocol, using only items labeled organic or mixing solutions made from common household products to control pest and diseases.

Others believe that since it is out of a spray can purchased at the supermarket, it can’t be that bad. However, the definition of a pesticide is to kill pests. “A pest” is anything that causes trouble or is an annoyance and “cide” means to kill. And this is true for synthetic or manmade pesticide, organic labeled pesticides and chemical cocktail mixes you make from household items.

Using the appropriate pesticide will keep you and your family safer and help in keeping the environment working well. It will also reduce the possibility of the development of resistance to a pesticide. The use of pesticides is regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) which authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the program.

FIFRA also regulates the sale, use and distribution of all pesticides in the U.S. Other important legislations are the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).

The FFDCA set limits on pesticide residues allowed on food and feed products. Residue is also known as tolerance level. The FQPA increases the safety standard for new pesticides used on food or in food production and requires the periodic review of older pesticides to determine if tolerance levels are consistent with new data on its use and impact on the environment.

And this is the reason why you may not find the pesticide you used to buy and found effective.

Play it safe, use pesticides wisely.

For more information on this and other gardening topics, please visit the CTAHR electronic publication website at or visit any of the local Cooperative Extension Service offices around the island. I can be reached at


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