Understanding Pesticide Signal Words
Signal words are found on all pesticide product labels. These words describe human acute toxicity of the formulated pesticide product in the container. The four signal levels used are Caution, Warning, Danger, and Danger - Poison. Each has a clearly defined meaning.
While you should be careful around all pesticide products and follow all safety instructions no matter what signal word is indicated, it is still important to know the difference between the varying levels of signal words.
Danger ☠ Poison: These pesticide products are highly toxic by at least one exposure entry into the body.
Danger: Products labeled with danger but without the accompanying skull and crossbones and Poison label can still cause serious eye damage or skin irritation.
Warning: This means the pesticide product is moderately toxic when eaten, inhaled, absorbed through skin or moderate skin and eye irritation.
Caution: Indicates the pesticide product is slightly toxic if inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or eaten and causes minor eye irritation.
Signal words are useful for pesticide users to be aware of hazards associated with the pesticide of choice. Signal words can be used to select pesticide of lesser toxicity that can effectively control target pests.
It is important to recognize that all pesticides have the potential to be toxic to humans when used in high doses.
Always read and follow label directions before applying any pesticide. The label also tells what PPE (personal protective equipment) is required when handling the pesticide.
Additional information available on a label
While it’s important to understand signal words, there is also additional information on a pesticide label that can help you understand hazards of the pesticide and how to avoid them.
You’ll see a section on hazards to humans and domestic animals, environmental hazards, and physical and chemical hazards, such as propensity for fire or explosions.
You’ll also receive information on first aid treatment if someone does get poisoned by a pesticide.
You should ALWAYS call the National Poison Center Hotline — keep the number 1-800-222-1222 posted and have the label on hand and ready to reference.
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ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL USE INSTRUCTIONSIt is a violation of federal and state/provincial law to use any pesticide product other than in accordance with its label. The distribution, sale and use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. It is your responsibility to confirm prior to purchase and use that a product is labeled for your specific purposes, including, but not limited to, your target crop or pest and its compatibility with other products in a tank mix. This information should not be used as a replacement for consulting the applicable product label. Consult the label for the most complete and up-to-date information about any referenced product. Readers must have a valid applicator license to use restricted use pesticides. Please consult your state department of agriculture for complete rules and regulations on the use of restricted use pesticides, as some products require specific record-keeping requirement.