Signal words on labels give an estimate of pesticide toxicity

Information taken from the UGA publication Insecticide Basics for the Pest Management Professionalby Dan Suiter, UGA Department of Entomology, and Michael Scharf, Purdue University Department of EntomologyThe signal word found on every product’s label is based on test results from various oral, dermal, and inhalation toxicity tests, as well skin and eye corrosion assays in some cases. Signal words are placed on labels to convey a level of care that should be taken (especially personal protection) when handling and using a product—i.e., from purchase to disposal of the empty container (Table 1).

Table 1. Toxicological parameters related to signal words found on EPA-registered pesticide product labels.

Signal Word on LabelToxicity CategoryAcute-Oral LD50 for RatsAmount Needed to Kill an Average Sized AdultNotes
Danger-PoisonHighly Toxic50 or lessTaste to a teaspoonSkull and Crossbones; Keep out of Reach of Children
WarningModerately Toxic50-500One to six teaspoonsKeep out of Reach of Children
CautionSlightly Toxic500-5,000One ounce to a pintKeep out of Reach of Children
CautionRelatively Non-Toxic>5,000Greater than a pintKeep out of Reach of Children

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