The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 14, 2013

Signal word important for pesticides

By Roger Don Gribble, Extended Forecast
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — I recently have been providing agriculture producers with training on the application of pesticides and assisting them with information about obtaining their new certified pesticide applicators license.

Every five years, each private applicator must re-certify in order to purchase pesticides and make their own applications. If you are not aware, most licenses will need to be renewing this year in order to purchase pesticides in 2014.

One of the most important pieces of information about a pesticide is the knowledge of the signal word on all pesticides. The signal word is the best way of knowing just how dangerous the product you have purchased for application is. Knowing the signal word may help your purchase decision and provide the precautions needed for yourself, your workers or other people or pets that may be exposed to these pesticides.

By law, the signal word must appear in large letters on the front panel of the pesticide label. It immediately follows the statement, “Keep Out of the Reach of Children,” which must appear on any pesticide label. The signal word is based not only on the active ingredient alone but also the contents of the formulated product. It reflects the hazard of any active ingredients, carriers, solvents or inert ingredients.

The signal word indicates the risk of acute effects from the four routes of exposure to a pesticide product (oral, dermal, inhalation, eye) and is based on the one that is greatest. The signal word does not indicate the risk of delayed effects or allergic effects.

If the signal word is “Danger,” this is the highest level of toxicity. Any pesticide that is highly toxic orally, dermally, through inhalation or cause severe eye and skin burning will be labeled, “Danger.”

If the signal word is “Warning,” this is the second highest warning to applicators. Applicators need to be cautious with these products, but these products are not nearly as toxic as the highest levels of toxicity.

If the signal word is “Caution,” this is the lowest level of warning to an applicator of pesticides. While these products can be toxic, they require a larger amount of the product to be taken orally, dermally, through inhalation or through eye contact to be toxic.

These signal words are a way to recognize just how toxic a particular pesticide can be. If you feel there might be someone sensitive to a pesticide or there might be some other reason to be cautious about applying a certain pesticide, the signal word will indicate some potential problems.

Please contact your county Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service agriculture educator with questions about the signal words for your safety and the safety of others.

Gribble is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist.