How to Read a Label’s Signal Words
In most ways there are few government safeguards in place for us regarding the safety of commercial cleaning products, but “signal words” and “warning words” on product labels are one notable exception.
They are placed there by order of the federal government and are primarily for helping you protect your family’s health.
Learn how to recognize the warning signs that you’re holding a toxic product in your hands.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from toxic products is to read labels and pay particular attention to “signal words.” They are placed on products by order of the federal government, with the primary purpose of protecting you, but sometimes to tell you about the products’ potential impact on the environment.
POISON/DANGER means something very toxic; only a few drops could kill you.
WARNING means moderately toxic; as little as a teaspoonful can kill.
CAUTION denotes a product that is less toxic; two tablespoons to a cup could kill you.
There are a few others, called “warning words,” such as STRONG SENSITIZER, TOXIC, CARCINOGEN, FLAMMABLE and CORROSIVE.
The Environmental Health Foundation, in its book Toxic Turnaround, compiled a list of the top four chemical groups we should reject and eliminate.
These four are pesticides, toxic gases (such as chlorine and ammonia), heavy metals (such as lead and mercury), and volatile organic compounds (such as formaldehyde and solvents). The guideline are an excellent starting point. If we eliminate these chemicals, we will go a long way toward solving our environmental and health problems. I add plastics as a fifth category because of the increasing evidence that many plastic component are endocrine disrupters, synthetic chemicals that our bodies receive as if they were natural hormones.
By Annie B. Bond