Read the Label

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The chemical make-up of the product you are using determines if it is hazardous. The easiest way to determine if something is hazardous is read the label. Look for these words:

Poison and Danger indicate the highest hazard levels. Poison means that a product is highly toxic, and can cause injury or death if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

Danger means that a product is either highly toxic, flammable, or corrosive. Look for the word "danger" on cleaners, polishes, paint strippers and pesticides. "Danger" means the product could poison you, cause serious damage to your skin or eyes, or easily cause a fire.

Warning and Caution both indicate that a product is toxic, corrosive, reactive or flammable

Toxic and Poisonous: Causes long-term illness (such as cancer). Pesticides, paint thinners, many auto products and some cleaners are toxic. Look for words on the product label like:

  • Harmful or fatal if swallowed.
  • Use only in a well-ventilated area" (this means product fumes are toxic).
Flammable: Burns easily. Paint, thinners and other solvents, and auto products are the most flammable home products. Look for words on the product label like:
  • Do not use near heat or flame
  • Combustible
  • Do not smoke while using this product

Corrosive: Eats through materials (acid, for example). Oven cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and auto batteries are common corrosive products. Look for words on the product label like:

  • Causes severe burns on contact.
  • Can burn eyes, skin, throat.

Reactive: Can spontaneously ignite or create poisonous vapors when mixed with other products (therefore NEVER mix household products), or can explode when exposed to heat, air, water or shock. Fortunately, there are few consumer products still on the market that are explosive (except for fireworks). Some older explosive products might still be stored in homes