Understanding the Terms...


It is important to read a chemical product’s label, understanding its proper use and proper storage.

The label of a product will indicate the level of toxicity and precautions that should be taken when used.  All the terms do not have the same meaning.


CAUTION indicates the lowest level of potential harm.  It means that the product is not likely to produce permanent damage as a result of exposure, if appropriate first aid is given.  The eye or skin could become inflamed, or adverse effects, such as dizziness or stomach upset, could occur if the product is swallowed or inhaled.


WARNING: indicates a higher level of potential harm than CAUTION, meaning that you could become seriously ill or harmed.  It also is used to identify products that can easily catch on fire.  These products are required by law to be in child-resistant packaging.


DANGER: indicates the highest level of potential harm.  Unintentional exposure of the eye or skin of the product could produce tissue damage.  Swallowing the product could produce damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach or even death.  This word is also used if the material could explode if exposed to an open flame.  These products are required by law to be in child-resistant packaging.  You may also find a skull-and-crossbones symbol along with words “DANGER-POISON” on certain pesticide products.  This means the product can harm the whole body.


POISON: indicates that it can injure or kill if absorbed through the skin, ingested or inhaled.


TOXIC: means it can cause injury or death if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.


IRRITANT: indicates it causes soreness or swelling of skin, eyes, mucous membranes, or respiratory system.


FLAMMABLE: means it easily catches on fire and tends to burn rapidly.


FLAMMABLE LIQUID: means it catches on fire below 140°F (100°F for US DOT purposes).


COMBUSTIBLE LIQUID: indicates it has catches on fire from 140°F (100°F for US DOT purposes) to 200°F.


CORROSIVE: indicates a chemical or its vapors that can cause a material or living tissue to be destroyed.