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A List and Description of GHS Pictograms, Symbols and Their Meanings

Updated on September 1, 2013
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Susan is a science geek, and if that wasn't enough, she gets all nerdy over technology too. She's also a writer.

GHS Pictograms

GHS stands for 'Globally Harmonized System' and has been created by the United Nations. There are ten types of GHS pictograms which clearly explain a chemical danger or hazard which may harm a living organism. These pictograms have only been introduced in recent years, to replace the EU's older pictograms. Their main use is for chemicals, and identifying hazards within those chemicals.

In this guide, you will get to know each GHS pictogram plus an explanation and picture. Learn to stay safe in the laboratory by recognising GHS pictograms!

Flammable | Source

1. Flammable

This pictogram means flammable, a flammable substance can be ignited very easily and will burn very vigorously when ignited. Always be cautious around flammable substances and follow proper storage instructions.


2. Oxidizing

An oxidizing substance will create oxygen without knowing so. The oxygen created by these oxidizing substances will fuel flammable substances, leading to a fire. Be aware that oxidizing substances do not burn themselves, but provide the fuel for flammable substances to burn.

To avoid any fire or accidents, always keep oxidizing substances away from flammable substances and always consult a scientist on where to store oxidizing substances. This sign takes liquids, gases and solids that oxidize into consideration. Oxidizing liquids are not the only form of oxidizing substances. Both gases and liquids can oxidize too.

Toxic | Source

3. Toxic

A toxic substance can potentially harm or kill any living organism if it gets ingested or inhaled. Lead oxide is an example of a toxic substance. Toxic substances can cause problems with the respiratory or breathing systems, leading to difficulty with breathing, causing death.

Be very cautious with substances labelled with this sign; wear a face mask, eye protection and gloves. Wash your hands immediately after use.


4. Corrosive

The word corrosive comes from the Latin verb 'corrodere' meaning to gnaw. That certainly is true! Simply put, if you place a drop of a corrosive substance onto a piece of wood or plastic, the corrosive substance will 'gnaw' or eat into the substance. An example is Hydrochloric Acid which is commonly used in a titration against Sodium Hydroxide. Sodium Hydroxide (used in soap, also known as 'lye' or 'caustic soda') is also very corrosive/caustic. These substances are very dangerous and it is recommended that you wear a face mask, an eye shield and gloves. If a drop of a corrosive substance gets in contact with your eye, you will turn permanently blind. Or, if a drop of it goes onto your skin, it will eat your skin down into the bone, so be careful!

Corrosive substances are not toys, always be careful when handling them!

Dangerous To The Environment
Dangerous To The Environment

5. Dangerous To The Environment

Any substance with this label, can kill or harm any living thing within an ecosystem or environment. So, for example if you poured a substance with this sign into the sink, it could enter lakes and seas and possibly kill any forms of aquatic species including fish or even birds. If substances like these get into the soil, it could kill trees or plants.

Be careful on where you dispose of these chemicals, ask your local council on more information on where and how to dispose of chemicals in your local area.

Always mind the environment!
Always mind the environment! | Source
Health hazard!
Health hazard!

6. Health Hazard

Any substance with this sign can physically damage or potentially kill an animal or human being, or pose a severe health hazard to those involved. This may include:

  • Dangerous bacteria entering your system.
  • Radioactivity
  • Carcinogenic materials
  • Problems with breathing or respiration
  • Toxicity

Do not ingest or inhale any of these substances as it is extremely dangerous. It is unlikely that you will find a substance with this sign in the laboratory, but if you do, take utmost care. It is advised that you are supervised by a scientist when using substances with health hazards and follow their instructions. Wear a face mask, breathing apparatus, eye protection and gloves when dealing with such chemicals.


7. Irritant

Any irritant substance can cause soreness or redness to the skin and cause it to become irritated. If an irritant substance comes in contact with the eye, the eye will become very irritated. However, irritant substances are not harmless either! They can cause acute toxicity if ingested or inhaled.

To stay protected from irritant substances, wear gloves and eye protection and a face mask.

Please note...

All experiments are carried at your own risk. Always be careful when dealing with chemicals and wear adequate protection. Always work under the supervision of a scientist.

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      not enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      where is the ionizing radiation ?

    • susi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan W 

      5 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Sure, I'll update the article with those pictograms. Thanks!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You're missing 2 pictograms:

      - Gas Cylinder

      - Exploding Bomb

    • susi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan W 

      5 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Awww...I'm really glad it helped you, Sara. Thanks so much!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks Susi10 for writing this hub.It really helped me with my science homework and I even got an A

    • susi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan W 

      7 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hi Writer Fox,

      Thanks for reading this, I appreciate it. It's good that you know what these signs now mean, that's why I wrote this hub, so everyone will understand what these signs mean.

      Thanks for the comment, Writer Fox and have a great day!

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      7 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      These signs were all new to me. Honestly, without your explanation, I don't think I would have understood what the warnings were for!


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