Understanding Pesticide Signal Words – Caution, Warning, and Danger

A Signal Word is the word listed on a pesticide label that indicates a product’s toxicity to humans. It must be listed in large print and positioned clearly on the front of all pesticide labels.

There are three primary levels of signal words. They are “Danger”, “Warning” and “Caution”. The Danger signal word has different levels based on its toxicity as defined below. The Danger level indicating the most toxicity if inhaled, absorbed through the skin, and especially if swallowed will accompany a Skull and Crossbones symbol with the words “Danger” and “Poison”. Obviously, the stronger the signal word the greater the chances of encountering the harmful effects of pesticides. You must always keep in mind the dangers of pesticides should they be used carelessly.

These words are not only for pesticides, but must also accompany many household products as well, such as hairspray, mouthwash, kitchen cleaners, etc. All products are different and many combinations of warnings exist. For some products, a level of “Warning” may apply if inhaled or swallowed, but reduced to “Caution” if exposed to skin. It is very important to read and follow all pesticide label directions and to wear the required protective clothing listed.

The following list is based on the EPA’s definitions. Note: Pesticide labels are always changing and, at times, the definitions may change as well. This list in not intended as legal advice.

Definitions of Signal Words

Caution- This is a word that signals the product is slightly toxic or relatively non-toxic. It has only slight potential to cause acute illness if swallowed, inhaled or exposed to the skin. The skin or eye irritation it would cause would be less than those with other signal words.

Warning- This is a word that signals the pesticide or product is moderately likely to cause acute illness if swallowed, inhaled or exposed to the skin. It is also likely to cause moderate eye irritation.

Danger- This is a signal word that means the pesticide or product is very toxic. These products should not be swallowed, inhaled or exposed to skin. It may indicate that it will cause serious eye irritation. Some pesticides have a time period following an application before children and pets are allowed back in the house or yard. If allowed back in before the safety period ends and comes in contact with the pesticide, it could result in exposure. Carefully follow safety guidelines – Jasa Anti Rayap.

Danger/Skull and Crossbones/Poison- Indicates that this product is highly toxic and should be used carefully with all appropriate safety clothing. Pesticides with this level of toxicity are only available to certified and trained applicators. However, Gasoline, carries this label for exposure by swallowing and is a product we use everyday.


These words are not intended to replace common sense. Reactions could be worse for some people. For example, a small amount exposed to the skin may have less of an affect than a larger amount of the same product. Also, quickly washing off the product after being exposed will often prevent any reaction unless it is immediately absorbed. The personal protective equipment (PPE) listed on the label is the minimum requirements for that product and you can always wear more if the situation needs it. Always read the pesticide label carefully and if you are ever in doubt, take greater precautions or use a different product.

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