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Even if you’re not looking for them, they stick out like a sore thumb. These ubiquitous red diamonds with a simplistic symbol are appearing on more and more of all household products that are used on a day-to-day basis. From domestic cleaning products like bleach, to relatively innocuous products like washing-up liquid, these symbols are popping up more frequently, and our products are no different. Does it mean these products are dangerous?  Should you avoid using these products? Is a product without these symbols safer than a similar product with?

What’s it all about?

These red diamonds with black symbols are often referred to as “warning symbols”, but are officially called “pictograms”. These symbols are the result of a United Nations initiative called the Globally Harmonised System. In the UK, they replace the old-style orange warning squares, but as different countries had different ways of representing the warnings, this system was deployed with the intention of conveying the risks universally. 

These symbols make a product look dangerous.  Are they?

When you first see these symbols, they can instil a fear about a product! However, as the deadline for manufacturers to display these warnings expired at the beginning of June 2017, they are now commonplace. Because of their ubiquity, it’s easy to become immune to them and no longer pay attention to them.

In terms of hazards, it really does depend. The pictograms provide a rough outline of the risk involved, albeit, some more comprehensible than others. Accompanying each of the pictograms is a section of text that outlines the risks associated with that product. No manufacturer wants to supply unnecessarily harmful chemicals to get the job done, but even mild products may still attract warnings. Of the most common are risks to eyes and skin, and usually attract the pictogram bearing an exclamation mark. If you’ve ever got something in your eye that’s not supposed to be there, it’s not nice! This probably explains why this symbol appears on lots of different product!

Product X has a pictogram of a dead fish on a riverbank! Does it mean that it will kill my fish?

For fish keepers, this is probably one of the most controversial pictograms that can feature on a fish keeping product. This symbol attempts to convey risks to the environment or aquatic life. The problem here is with the term “aquatic life”. This term doesn’t only apply to fish, but all organisms in aquatic environments: algae, higher aquatic plants, snails and other molluscs, aquatic insect larvae, and other invertebrates. Our CO2 Boost for example, is an alternative carbon source for plant growth, but it is recognised that the active ingredient can be harmful to algae. When used as directed, it’s perfectly safe for fish, plants and other desirable aquarium inhabitants, but we are obliged to include this somewhat ambiguous symbol to the label.

A similar medicinal product to yours doesn’t have these symbols, but yours does.  Does it mean that the other product is safer?

As veterinary (and human) medicines are already tightly regulated by other governing bodies and legislation, the rules of using these symbols doesn’t apply for these products. Therefore, veterinary medicinal products do not need such warnings. Our governing body, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), does however place other safety precautions depending on the active ingredient used. In the case where malachite green is used in a preparation, the VMD stipulates that products should be labelled in accordance with the GHS rules, as well as the use of a child-resistant closure.

At NT Labs, we recognise that some of the permitted active ingredients used in our industry aren’t the most pleasant in their undiluted form. As most users will not be aware that veterinary medicines do not require GHS symbols, the now prevalent appearance of these symbols on other household products may give the impression that veterinary medicines are without risks. Therefore, by choice, we have decided to use the warning symbols where a formulation contains these less pleasant ingredients.

What should I do if I have an accident with one of your products?

When used according to the instruction and with a reasonable level of care, the risks associated with our products are practically zero. But accidents can happen. The main risks associated with veterinary medicinal products for aquatic use are skin contact, eye contact, ingestion and inhalation of fumes. If a product is spilt on skin or splashed in eyes, always wash with copious amounts of water (removing contact lenses if present). Inhalation risks are more commonly associated with products containing formaldehyde; containers should be closed immediately after use and are better used in well-ventilated spaces.

In the case of accidental ingestion or if symptoms from contact appear, speak to a healthcare professional, such as a GP, or NHS on 111. In emergencies, call 999. Make sure you have the container available for the healthcare professional to inspect.

How should I store these products?

It’s best to store these products like any other household product. Always store them well out of reach of children. To preserve the efficacy of our formulations, store at room temperature, away from extreme heat or cold and out of direct sunlight. Once a product has been opened and used, immediately close the container, ensuring that the cap or lid is firmly closed. If the container’s seal has been broken, the product should be used within 6 months.

Anything else?

When used with due care and attention, you should be able to use our products with very little risk.  It’s best to not be alarmed by any warnings present, but not to ignore them either. They are there to provide information and to provide a prompt to use products with care. Always read the instructions provided before use, and if you have any question, drop us a call or an email and we’d be more than happy to help.

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Tagged in: Indoor, Outdoor