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Publication #PI-98

Pesticide Labeling: First Aid Statements1

Frederick M. Fishel2

This document explains first aid statements seen on pesticide labels and discusses the toxicity criteria used in determining the manner in which they are presented on the pesticide label. Examples of typical statements regarding first aid found on pesticide labels are provided.

Introduction

A co-worker has accidentally ingested a small amount of concentrated pesticide from a splash that occurred while pouring the concentrate into the sprayers tank (Figure 1). Should you give the person water to drink? Maybe it would be more appropriate to help your co-worker induce vomiting; but then again, maybe not.

The pesticide label's first aid statements contain valuable information regarding treatment of victims subjected to pesticide exposure – for all major routes of entry into the body, including ocular, oral, dermal, and inhalation.

Figure 1. 

Properly treating a victim who has been orally exposed to a pesticide is a serious situation.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Which pesticides labels require first aid statements?

A first aid statement (Figure 2) is required when any acute toxicity study result is classified as Category I, II, or III (Table 1). Although not required, it is acceptable for a pesticide manufacturer to include first aid statements on product labels for which studies have shown to be classified as Category IV. The statements will appear under one of the following headings: “First Aid” or “Statements of Practical Treatment.” If the product is classified as toxicity Category I, the statement must appear on the labels front panel.

Products classified as toxicity Categories II and III may have their first aid statements on any panel of the products label. However, if they dont appear on the front panel, a referral statement such as “see side/back panel for first aid” should appear on the front panel in close proximity to the signal word. First aid statements are organized so that the most severe routes of exposure, as shown with the toxicity classification, are listed first. Examples of typical first aid statements are shown in Table 2.

Figure 2. 

First aid statements on pesticide labeling contain practical directions.


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Unique first aid statements for certain pesticides

If the product contains an organophosphate or carbamate. These pesticides inhibit cholinesterase; therefore, a first aid statement similar to the following will be shown: “Product contains (either carbamate or organophosphate) that inhibits cholinesterase.”

If the product contains zinc phosphide. Statements similar to the following may appear: “If swallowed: Immediately call a Poison Control Center or doctor or transport the person to the nearest hospital. DO NOT DRINK WATER. Do not administer anything by mouth or make the person vomit unless advised to do so by a doctor.”

Note to physicians

Whenever a person has to be taken to an emergency facility due to a pesticide exposure, the products label should be taken along. Found on the label, the note to physicians provides detailed instructions for treating an exposure victim (Figure 3). It is found on labels of:

• All products that are classified as toxicity Category I.

  • Products which are corrosive or classified as toxicity Category I for eye or skin. These products will contain the following note to physician: “Probable mucosal damage may contraindicate the use of gastric lavage.”

  • Products which contain at least 10% petroleum distillate will have a note to physician such as: “Contains petroleum distillate. Vomiting may cause aspiration pneumonia.”

  • Products which produce physiological effects requiring specific antidotal or medical treatment such as: cholinesterase inhibitors, metabolic stimulants, and anticoagulants.

The note to physician is located in close proximity to the first aid statements, but is clearly distinguished from it. It is not placed within the first aid statements, but appears below the first aid statements.

Figure 3. 

Physicians obtain treatment information from the labels note to physicians.


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Figure 4. 

The note to physicians provides information specific to that product for treating an exposure victim.


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Additional information

Dean, T.W. 2003. Pesticide applicator update: choosing suitable personal protective equipment. UF/IFAS EDIS Document PI-28. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI061.

Fishel, F.M. 2005. Interpreting pesticide label wording. UF/IFAS EDIS Document PI-34. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI071.

Fishel, F.M. 2005. Respirators for pesticide applications. UF/IFAS EDIS Document PI-77. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI114.

Fishel, F.M. 2008. EPA Approval of pesticide labeling. UF/IFAS EDIS Document PI-167. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI203.

Nesheim, O.N., F.M. Fishel and M. Mossler. 2005. Toxicity of pesticides. UF/IFAS EDIS Document PI-13. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI008.

Tables

Table 1. 

Acute toxicity measures and warnings.

Category

Signal word

Oral LD50 mg/kg

Dermal LD50 mg/kg

Inhalation LC50 mg/l

Oral lethal dose*

I Highly toxic

DANGER, POISON (skull and crossbones)

0 to 50

0 to 200

0 to 0.2

A few drops to a teaspoon

II Moderately toxic

WARNING

50 to 500

200 to 2,000

0.2 to 2.0

Over a teaspoon to one ounce

III Slightly toxic

CAUTION

500 to 5,000

2,000 to 20,000

2.0 to 20.0

Over one ounce to one pint

IV Relatively non-toxic

CAUTION (or no signal word)

5,000+

20,000+

20+

Over one pint to one pound

*Probable for a 150-pound person.

Table 2. 

Typical first aid statements according to route of exposure and toxicity category.

Route of exposure and toxicity category

First aid statement

Ingestion treatment for acute oral toxicity Categories I - III

If swallowed:

-Call a poison control center or doctor immediately for treatment advice.

-Have person sip a glass of water if able to swallow.

-Do not induce vomiting unless told to by a poison control center or doctor.

-Do not give anything to an unconscious person.

Acute oral toxicity Category IV

Statement is not required. Manufacturers may use statements that are shown for Categories 1 – III if they choose.

Skin exposure treatment for acute dermal toxicity, and irritation Categories I - III

If on skin:

-Take off contaminated clothing.

-Rinse skin immediately with plenty of water for 15 – 20 minutes.

-Call a poison control center or doctor for treatment advice.

Dermal and skin irritation toxicity Category IV

Statement is not required. Manufacturers may use statements that are shown for Categories I – III if they choose.

Inhalation treatment for acute toxicity Categories I - III

If inhaled:

-Move person to fresh air.

-If person is not breathing, call 911 or an ambulance, then give artificial respiration, preferably mouth-to-mouth if possible.

-Call a poison control center or doctor for further treatment advice.

Inhalation toxicity Category IV

Statement is not required. Manufacturers may use statements that are shown for Categories I – III if they choose.

Eye exposure treatment for eye irritation Categories I – III

If in eyes:

-Hold eye open and rinse slowly and gently with water for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present, after the first 5 minutes, then continue rinsing.

-Call a poison control center or doctor for treatment advice.

Eye irritation Category IV

Statement is not required. Manufacturers may use statements that are shown for Categories I – III if they choose.

General information to include either near the first aid statement or emergency phone number

-Have the product container or label with you when calling a poison control center or doctor or going for treatment.

Footnotes

1.

This document is PI-98, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date January 2006. Revised February 2009. Reviewed January 2012. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Frederick M. Fishel, professor, Agronomy Department, and Director, Pesticide Information Office; Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Use pesticides safely. Read and follow directions on the manufacturer's label.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.