Understanding Pesticide Signal Words on a Label

FBN Network

Feb 28, 2023

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:

  • Danger - Poison

  • Danger

  • Warning

  • Caution

Each has a clearly defined meaning.

How Signal Labels Are Chosen

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.

1. Danger ☠ Poison

These pesticide products are highly toxic by at least one exposure entry into the body.

2. Danger

Products labeled with danger but without the accompanying skull and crossbones and Poison label can still cause serious eye damage or skin irritation.

3. Warning

This means the pesticide product is moderately toxic when eaten, inhaled, absorbed through skin or moderate skin and eye irritation.

4. Caution

Indicates the pesticide product is slightly toxic if inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or eaten and causes minor eye irritation.

What are Signal Words on Labels?

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.

[READ: 7 Things US Farmers Should Know about Insecticide and Fungicide Applications this Year]

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.

[READ: How to Read a Chemical Label]

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Copyright © 2014 - 2023 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights Reserved. The sprout logo, “FBN”, and “FBN Direct” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Farmer's Business Network, Inc.. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

FBN Direct products and services and other products distributed by FBN Direct in the United States are offered by FBN Inputs, LLC and are available only in states where FBN Inputs, LLC is licensed and where those products are registered for sale or use, if applicable.

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. It is a violation of federal, state and 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, provincial 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 and that the usage of a product is otherwise consistent with federal, state, provincial, and local laws.  In all applicable jurisdictions, you must have a valid applicator license and/or be a certified farmer to use restricted use pesticides.  

All product recommendations and other information provided is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for consulting the product label or for specific agronomic, business, or professional advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified advisor.

FBN Network

Feb 28, 2023

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