Consumer Labeling Initiative
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Consumer Labeling Initiative (CLI) was launched in March 1996. It was a multi-phased pilot project focusing on consumer products such as indoor insecticides, outdoor pesticides, and household hard surface cleaners (i.e., floor and basin, tub and tile), some of which are registered antimicrobials/disinfectants. The CLI was designed to improve product labels so that they are easier for consumers to understand; help consumers to become more aware of product labels and the information they contain; give consumers better tools for understanding label information; and encourage consumers to consistently and thoroughly read consumer product labels before purchase, use, storage, and disposal. In the CLI, EPA and stakeholders conducted consumer research to learn how to improve household pesticide and cleaning product labels. The newly redesigned, simpler labels are now appearing on products in stores. A consumer educational component was also developed to focus on safe use of pesticide products: the "Read the Label First!" campaign. The CLI involved a wide range of participants representing many interests related to consumer labeling issues, including federal and state government agencies, private industry, public interest groups, and individual citizens.
- Label Changes That Have Resulted From the CLI
- "Read the Label First!" Campaign
- Consumer Labeling Initiative Reports
Telephone Numbers on Product Labels
In emergencies, consumers need to know whom to call for help. The CLI's goal was to have an emergency telephone number - or, at a minimum, simple instructions on how and where to get emergency information - on every product label. Since smaller companies can't afford the expense of maintaining a 24-hour, toll-free emergency line, the Agency increased funding to the National Pesticide Information Center to allow the toll-free NPIC number to be used on pesticide product labels as an emergency contact. We have also encouraged companies to provide a telephone number for people to use to obtain answers to their everyday questions on product use, performance, ingredients, health and safety, and other information.
National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) is a toll-free telephone service that provides a variety of impartial information about pesticides to anyone in the contiguous United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. NPIC also directs callers to appropriate sources for pesticide incident investigation, safety practices, clean-up and disposal, and laboratory analyses.
How to contact NPIC:
Common Names, Not Formal Chemical Names
Consumers told us that complex chemical names in a list of ingredients weren't understandable to them. To simplify that information, we have encouraged companies to use the shorter common names for chemical ingredients approved by the American National Standards Institute, and to develop common names for many more chemicals.
Using the common names, instead of the formal chemical names, on the labels will make it much easier for a consumer to recognize a product's active ingredient. For example, the chemical name N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine would be replaced with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 5 name Glyphosate.
"Other Ingredients," Instead of "Inert Ingredients"
Pesticide labels have always identified ingredients as either "active" or "inert." Active ingredients kill or control pests, and must be named on the label. Inert ingredients contribute to the function and efficiency of the product but are not generally named on the label. We learned from consumers that the word "inert" is not generally understood, and is sometimes interpreted as meaning "inactive" or "water." To correct this misapprehension, we have encouraged companies to remove the term "inert" from pesticide product labels, and to replace the heading with the identification "other Ingredients."
"First Aid," Instead of "Statement of Practical Treatment"
When an accident happens, you need to know right away what to do. That information has not always been easy to find or understand. With the help of our industry partners and health care professionals, including Poison Control Centers, we've tested simpler, more direct instructions.
Most pesticide product labels use the heading "Statement of Practical Treatment" to identify instructions on what to do if someone accidentally swallows the product or gets it in their eyes or on their skin. Many companies once did not realize that they could use the simpler heading "First Aid" instead. The Agency has encouraged this change.
Consistent Storage and Disposal Information
We learned through the CLI that many people don't realize that labels often give information on how to store products safely and how best to dispose of leftover product or empty containers, so that information often isn't consulted. In addition, many local communities have developed very different programs for dealing with recyclable materials and with household wastes. As a result, we have explored with communities and our partners how best to provide storage and disposal information that gives people clear and appropriate directions to follow, no matter where they live.
CLI-related PR notices:
EPA reviews the product label as part of the licensing/registration process for pesticides. Many of the label changes that have been adopted for pesticide product labels as a result of the CLI consumer research were officially implemented through Pesticide Registration (PR) notices. Some of the less formal changes have been implemented through revisions to the Agency's Label Review Manual, the document used by people on the staff of the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs to assess the labels that companies submit for use on their registered pesticide products.
- Consumer Access Numbers on Pesticide Labels, PR 97-4
- Use of Term "Inert" in Label Ingredients Statement, PR 97-6
- Use of Common Names for Active Ingredients on Pesticide Labeling, PR 97-5
- Disposal Instructions on Non-Antimicrobial Residential or Household Use Pesticide Product Labels, PR 2007-1
- Environmental Hazard General Labeling Statements on Outdoor Residential Use Products, PR-2008-1
Reading the label is the first step to:
- Choosing the right product for your needs
- Keeping you, your children, and your pets safe
- Saving money
- Helping the environment
How to get involved with the "Read the Label First!" campaign:
Campaign materials available for your use include:
- Our little "reading person" symbol in English and Spanish and guidelines for using the symbol
- The poster design (PDF) (1 pg, 3.5 MB, About PDF)
- Five "Read the Label FIRST!" brochures:
- Protect Your Kids brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 1.0 MB, About PDF) (EPA 740-F-00-001)
- Protect Your Pet brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 1.0 MB, About PDF) (EPA 740-F-00-002)
- Protect Your Garden brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 1.0 MB, About PDF) (EPA 740-F-00-003)
- Protect Your Household brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 1.0 MB, About PDF) (EPA 740-F-00-004)
- Why Read Labels? (PDF) (2 pp, 585k, About PDF) (EPA 735-F-02-015)
In addition, print copies of the five brochures are available from the National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP) without charge by calling 1-800-490-9198; by sending a fax request to 301-604-3408; by visiting the NSCEP website; or by sending mail to:
P.O. Box 42419
Cincinnati, OH 45242
When ordering from NSCEP, please be sure to use both the title and the EPA Publication Number for each item.
Reports on consumer research, findings, and recommendations generated by the CLI:
The Consumer Labeling Initiative resulted in a Phase I Report and a Phase II report. Portions of these reports and a PDF of the complete report are provided for your reference.