The truth about pesticide labels: What you need to know, not fear


Today I want to empower you with knowledge that can transform how you view and choose pest control products. 

The jargon on pesticide labels can be daunting, and it’s crucial to understand what these terms mean for your safety and the environment. Let’s cut through the confusion together.

Understanding pesticide labels: A critical overview

When you pick up a pesticide, the label might seem like a straightforward guide to using the product safely and effectively. However, the reality is often more complex. Here are three crucial aspects to be aware of when understanding a pesticide label:

  1. Legal enforcement: Pesticide labels are not just guides; they are legally enforceable. The EPA mandates that it is a violation of federal law to use the product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.
  2. Educational tool: Beyond legalities, pesticide labels serve educational purposes. They are critical for the certification of pesticide applicators, ensuring users are well-informed about legal requirements and safe usage practices, as detailed in the EPA’s Label Review Manual.
  3. Marketing vs. reality: The terms "natural" and "non-toxic" on labels are not strictly regulated, often allowing manufacturers to use these descriptions loosely. It’s vital to look beyond marketing claims and examine the ingredients to fully understand their impacts on health and the environment.

Decoding common terms and misconceptions

Let’s explore three commonly misunderstood terms and concepts on pesticide labels to ensure you're fully informed about what these products contain and their potential effects:

  1. Natural does not always mean safe: The allure of “natural” products is undeniable, but it's vital to remember that natural substances can also be harmful. For instance, pyrethrin, derived from chrysanthemum flowers, is a common “natural” insecticide, yet it can cause allergic reactions in some people and is toxic to aquatic life.
  2. Chemical names and their impacts: Often, pesticide labels will list active ingredients with complex chemical names. It’s important to research these ingredients individually. Substances like organophosphates, for example, can affect the nervous system of pests and humans. 
  3. Inert ingredients | The hidden dangers: Labels often disclose less about inert ingredients, which are not required to be listed in detail despite sometimes comprising over 90% of the product. Some of these can be as harmful as the active ingredients.

How to read and understand labels correctly

Navigating a pesticide label goes beyond a cursory glance at the front display. To truly protect yourself and the environment, here are some key points to watch out for:

  • Look beyond the front label: Don’t be swayed by marketing phrases like “safe” or “eco-friendly” that are prominently displayed to attract your attention. These terms might catch your eye but often do not reflect the true nature of the product.
  • Read the fine print: Always turn the product around and invest time in reading the smaller text. This section, including the list of active and sometimes inert ingredients, reveals the actual substances you will be handling.
  • Understand the precautionary statements: This critical part of the label includes proper handling guidelines, potential hazards and first aid instructions. A product labeled as harmless yet featuring extensive warnings should be a major red flag.
  • Check the environmental hazards: This information is vital for understanding the ecological impact of the product. It outlines any potential harm to wildlife, water bodies and other environmental components.
  • Identify the signal words: Words like ‘DANGER’, ‘WARNING’ or ‘CAUTION’ provide immediate insight into a product’s toxicity level. These signal words help gauge the necessary precautions due to their indication of acute toxicity.
  • Consult the user manual: In addition to the label, many products include a detailed user manual that offers comprehensive usage instructions and safety guidelines. Consult this manual for thorough understanding and safe application.

Understanding these elements will help you make safer and more informed decisions when choosing and using pesticides.

How Dr. Killigan’s stands apart in pesticide safety and transparency

In an industry often criticized for opaque labeling and questionable ingredient safety, Dr. Killigan's takes a markedly different approach. Unlike many pesticides that require hazard warnings like 'DANGER', 'WARNING', or 'CAUTION', our products contain none of these signal words. This absence is a testament to the safety of our formulations, which meet the strict standards set forth by the EPA for minimum-risk pesticides. These signal words, mandated by the EPA for most pesticides, indicate the level of hazard associated with a product. The absence of such words on our labels underscores our commitment to providing safe, effective and environmentally friendly pest control solutions.

Our commitment to safety is profound. Each active and inert ingredient in Dr. Killigan's products is meticulously vetted and complies with EPA guidelines. Our active ingredients are selected from an EPA-recognized list under 40 CFR 152.25(f)(1), known for their minimal risk profiles and safety when used as directed. Similarly, our inert ingredients are considered "minimum risk pesticides" by the EPA and are exempt from registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This rigorous selection process ensures that our products are not only effective but also environmentally friendly and safe for both human health and the environment.

Empowering you through full disclosure

We believe you have the right to know exactly what’s in the products you use in and around your homes. That’s why we disclose all ingredients, both active and inert, and provide detailed information on their effects and safe use. However, some of our products like the Clothing Moth Traps, Pantry Moth Traps, the Insect Buster, and The Fly Inn contain no active ingredients to list, focusing instead on mechanical or physical methods to control pests.


We are currently creating a thorough blog library on all the ingredients that we use in our products. Here are the beginnings, to be completed by the fall of 2024. 

Dust to Dust Plant-Powered Insect Powder:

Six Feet Under

Cedar Planks Clothes Moth Repellent: 

Sweet Surrender Fruit Fly Trap:

We also focus on education. By understanding what each component does and the potential risks it carries, you can make choices that align with your values and health standards. 

The bottom line


Navigating pesticide labels shouldn’t feel like deciphering a complex code. You deserve clarity and honesty about the products you choose to use around your loved ones and your pets. Remember, the most powerful tool at your disposal is knowledge. By staying informed and vigilant, you can protect your home from pests without compromising on safety and environmental integrity.

Thank you for trusting us at Dr. Killigan’s. Together, we can make informed choices that lead to safer homes and a healthier planet. To stay updated on our upcoming educational content, including our detailed blog library on product ingredients, subscribe to our newsletter. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more insights and tips on living a pest-free life, responsibly.

Join us as we continue to advocate for transparency and safety in every product we offer. Your peace of mind is our priority. Subscribe today and become part of the Dr. Killigan's community, committed to a healthier, more transparent world.

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