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57 Ways To Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself)
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18. Understand Pesticide Toxicity

acute and chronic toxicity

Toxicity is the inherent ability of a pesticide to cause injury or death, indicating how poisonous the chemical is.

Acute toxicity is the ability of a substance to cause harm as a result of a single dose or exposure to a chemical. Chronic toxicity is the ability of a substance to cause harm as the result of repeated doses or exposures over time.

testing for toxicity

The tests for acute and chronic toxicity are the only scientifically based methods currently used to predict risks to users and consumers. But they have limitations. These tests are usually done on rodents, which may not always accurately predict effects on humans. Plus, they do not take into consideration the possible interaction and effect of several compounds together.
warning label

All labels include the warning, “Keep out of reach of children.” In addition, most labels include “signal words” which give an idea of the pesticide’s toxicity or corrosiveness. These signal words are relative terms. They indicate how pesticides compare to one another. Even if a pesticide is considered to be relatively low in toxicity, it can be a deadly poison at a fairly low dose.
danger-poison

“Danger-poison” indicates a highly toxic pesticide. It may take a few drops to one teaspoon of the chemical in concentrated form, taken through the mouth, to kill an adult. Severe injury may occur at even lower doses.
danger

“Danger” indicates a highly corrosive pesticide. Although the pesticide may not be extremely toxic, it may severely injure the eyes or respiratory and digestive tracts. It may also cause severe skin burns.
warning

“Warning” indicates a moderately toxic or corrosive pesticide. On average, it takes 1 teaspoon to 1 ounce of the chemical in concentrated form, taken through the mouth, to kill an adult. Severe injury may occur at lower doses.
caution

“Caution” indicates relatively low toxicity or corrosiveness. It takes more than 1 ounce in a single dose of the concentrated chemical to kill the “average” adult.
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