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Pesticides - Labels

How do I know how toxic a pesticide is?

Pesticides are labelled to help identify their toxicity.

A pesticide container label consists of several panels of information. If all the information will not fit on these container panels then this extra information may be found in a separate booklet. There could also be stickers, tags, seals, leaflets, brochures, and wrappers on or attached to a container.

NOTE: The term "pesticide" describes a very large and diverse group of chemicals or products. It is very important to always get specific information about the exact product you are using.

For more information, other OSH Answers documents in this series include:

What kind of information is found on a pesticide label?

Important information is found on the labels of pest control products, and includes:

Table 1
Pesticide Label Information
Label element Description
Trade or Product Name The name may include a distinctive brand or trademark which will usually be prominently displayed.
Classification All pest control products are classified for intended use and by toxicity into one of four pesticide classes (domestic, commercial, manufacturing or restricted). The class is based on where the product will most often be used and how hazardous the product is to the user and the environment. It is also an indication of the care that should be taken when using, storing and transporting the pesticide.
Pesticide Type This is a description of the intended purpose of the product. Some of the most commonly used pesticides include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.
Active Ingredient(s) and Guarantee of Concentration Each active ingredient is identified by its established common name and the concentration in the formulation (% by weight or by volume).
Type of Formulation Is a description of the physical form of the product such as dust, liquid, wettable powder, etc.
Pest Control Product Registration Number For example REGISTRATION NO. 00000 PEST CONTROL PRODUCTS ACT.
Registrant's Name and Address Name and address, and sometimes a telephone number. Under some circumstances, the name and address of the Canadian Agent may be required instead. The registrant or agent can always be contacted for additional information.
Net Contents of Package The amount of pesticide product in the container expressed in metric units. This information will help you decide how many packages will be needed.
Directions for Use Includes species that are intended targets of the product, dosage rates, timing of application and limitations for use of the product. May list the re-entry time.
Degree and Nature of Hazards Indicated by precautionary signs, symbols and signal words (see Table 2) as standardized and outlined in the Pest Control Products Regulations.
Precautionary Statements and Handling Precautions Presents information on hazards relating to handling, storage, display, distribution and disposal. Instructions on how to eliminate the hazards should also be outlined here. May list the re-entry time.
First Aid Instructions Gives practical information on what to do in the event of poisoning or injury by the product.
Toxicological Information Gives information essential to treatment is a person is injured, or poisoned by the product. Includes the symptoms of poisoning, antidote or remedial measures and identity of other ingredients (such as petroleum distillates) in the product that may effect treatment. May list the re-entry time.

Adapted from: Grower Pesticide Safety Course Manual, Chapter 5 – Pesticide Formulations, Ontario Pesticide Education Program, University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus

What do the symbols and signal words mean?

The symbols and signal words on the pesticide label give you some quick information about the acute toxicity of the product. See Table 2 for the different types of hazard symbols

Table 2
Pesticide Symbols and Labelling
Four important symbols and words that show the potential hazards of pesticides. The hazard symbol will always appear INSIDE one of the shapes shown below.These shapes and their warning words tell you the degree of hazard of the pesticide. The greater the number of sides to the shape, the more hazardous the product.
Hazard Symbol Signal Word Hazard Degree Warning Symbol Signal Word
Hazard Symbol - Poison Poison
(Hazard by oral, skin or inhalation routes; may cause irritation.)
Triangular shape means LOW hazard
(3 sides)
Warning Symbol - Caution


Hazard Symbol - Corrosive Corrosive
(Product is corrosive to the skin and eyes; can cause chemical burns. It is either an acid or alkali (caustic).)
Diamond shape means MODERATE hazard
(4 sides)
Warning Symbol - Warning Warning
Hazard Symbol - Flammable Flammable
(Pesticide has low flash point and is flammable or easily ignited.)
Octagonal shape means HIGH hazard
(8 sides)
Warning Symbol - Danger Danger
Hazard Symbol - Explosive Explosive
(Pesticide can explode (e.g. pesticide in pressurized cans).)
Check the label for special warnings about eye hazards and skin hazards.

The front panel of the pesticide label may also contain warnings that tell you the product is corrosive to eyes, or is a skin or eye irritant.

Adapted from: Grower Pesticide Safety Course Manual, Chapter 5 – Pesticide Formulations, Ontario Pesticide Education Program, University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus

Table 3
Labels and Toxicity
Poison Hazard Symbol Poison Hazard Symbol - Danger Poison
Danger Poison
Poison Hazard Symbol - Warning Poison
Warning Poison
Poison Hazard Symbol - Caution Poison
Caution Poison
[No symbol]
Very low toxicity
Acute oral LD50 less than 500 mg/kg 500 - 1000 mg/kg 1000-2000 mg/kg greater than 2500 mg/kg
Acute dermal LD50 less than 500 mg/kg 500-1000 mg/kg 1000-2000 mg/kg greater than 2500 mg/kg
Respirator required advisable in confined spaces advisable in confined spaces advisable
Eye Protection required required advisable advisable
Eye effects corrosive or irreversible severe or reversible irritant --
Chronic effects fatal / irreversible non-fatal / irreversible non-fatal / reversible --
Petroleum distillates 10% or more (domestic products) 1 - 10% -- --

Adapted from:

Pesticide Wise, BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands

Pesticide Safety, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives

Pesticide Toxicity Hazard and Risk, Government of Alberta

Where can I look up Canadian Pesticide Labels?

To look up individual pesticide labels - Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has an electronic pesticide and label database. The labels of all pesticides registered for use in Canada, their complete text, including the pamphlets attached to the labels, can be found on the Health Canada web site.

Fact sheets and examples of how to read a pesticide label are available from:

Understanding the Pesticide Label - Nova Scotia Environment

Grower Pesticide Safety Course Manual, Chapter 5 – Pesticide Formulations, Ontario Pesticide Education Program, University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. (Click on Read icon beside Chapter 5 to open pdf document.)

Document last updated on November 18, 2010


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