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Chemical Hazard Symbols and Signs and Their Meanings: A Detailed Guide

Updated on November 28, 2013
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Susan is a science geek, and if that wasn't enough, she gets all nerdy over technology too. She is also a writer too.

Corrosive!
Corrosive!

An Academic Book for any Chemistry Student...

Quantitative Chemical Analysis
Quantitative Chemical Analysis

This chemistry book, used by millions of students and professors all over the world, written by the leading analytical chemistry expert Daniel C. Harris, incorporates a complete course in chemistry.

 

Introduction

Safety in the home, garage and laboratory is essential if you are a scientist, doing chemistry or even an everyday person with dangerous substances in the home and garage. There are many dangers lurking in the laboratory and home waiting to get at you. From chemicals to Bunsen burners you need to be extra careful. However, in schools especially, students are taught about chemicals, their dangers and how to prevent any accidents. However, even in the home and garage, dangerous chemicals could be lying there without your attention. Caustic Soda (lye) which is used in cleaning drains and the making of soap is extra-corrosive and will eat into your flesh should it come in contact with your skin. Moss killer which is used in garden patios is corrosive again. Luckily enough, there are hazard symbols on any products which are classified as harmful. This hub aims to explain all the different hazard symbols and what they mean.

Harmful or Irritant
Harmful or Irritant

Irritant

This is marked with a black X on an orange background. A lot of products have this such as many weak acids or alkalis. If you get it on your skin, it will cause it to go red and blister. If you are using a product which is irritant, always wear eye goggles and gloves. Wash any spills on your skin.

Corrosive!
Corrosive!

Corrosive

The word corrosive derives from the Latin verb corrodere meaning 'to gnaw' Concentrated solutions of strong bases such as caustic soda are very corrosive. If this comes in contact with your skin, it will burn and eat away into your flesh. Corrosive substances are very dangerous and be extra careful when handling them! Always wear eye protection, a face shield and gloves. If corrosive substances come in contact with your eyes, it can cause permanent blindness. A drop of a corrosive on the eye may cause blindness within 2-10 seconds!They can come in any state of matter: solid, liquid or gas. A low concentration of corrosive substances are often referred to as 'irritant'.

Flammable
Flammable

Flammable

These are substances that burn very vigorously when ignited at a relatively low temperature. Always handle with care near fire, heat or any other form of shock as they can ignite almost instantly, so do this to prevent any accidental fire.

Toxic!
Toxic!

Toxic

Lead oxide is considered to be a toxic substance. Any ingestion or inhalation of a toxic substance can cause difficulties with respiratory and other systems, leading to death. You must take utmost care when handling these substances. Always wear a face shield, eye protection and gloves.

Oxidising!
Oxidising!

Oxidizing

These substances do not burn themselves but produce oxygen for highly flammable substances to burn. If you are using an oxidising substance, it could cause your clothing to go on fire so wear eye protection and wear an anti-flammable lab coat.

Explosive!
Explosive!

Explosive

It is uncommon to get a substance which is explosive in the household, but just in case you come across it in every day life, it is handy to know what the symbol looks like, as you can see on the right. An explosive material is extremely dangerous as it has a huge amount of potential energy of heat, light, sound and power to exert. You may know these substances more simply as 'bombs'. Substances with these symbols must be handled with utmost extreme care and it is advised to keep these substances away from heat, fire and other forms of shock as the substance can go under combustion very easily.

Danger! High voltage!
Danger! High voltage!

High Voltage

This sign means 'high voltage' and is a very good warning sign, too! The term high voltage means electricity at such a high voltage that if any living thing goes near it, it will cause harm or even death. If you see a sign like this at an industrial site, do not go anywhere near that area as the electricity is so high, it will kill or severely harm you.

This sign would be most likely used in industrial and scientific areas as certain equipment requires high voltage to function. You may also find this sign at electrical power distribution centres.

Biohazard, commonly used in hospital laboratories and scientific sites.
Biohazard, commonly used in hospital laboratories and scientific sites.

Biohazard

Biohazards, also known as biological hazards are microorganisms or biological substances that pose a threat to the health of a living organism. These hazards can include toxins, viruses, dangerous bacteria and contagious microorganisms. You would mainly find this sign in laboratories, biochemistry laboratories in hospitals and pharmaceutical sites as scientists working there would have to test viral samples and other bacteria which could pose a threat to the health of the workers there. This sign is also used on the labelling of products which may include hypodermic needles, samples and other substances. Extreme caution must be taken when using these substances and always wear a face mask and gloves. Consult a scientist working in the laboratory for more information on how to handle such products.

Disposing needles and samples in a sharps container is standard procedure used by scientists. As you can see, the biohazard sign is labelled on this container.
Disposing needles and samples in a sharps container is standard procedure used by scientists. As you can see, the biohazard sign is labelled on this container. | Source
Source

Dangerous To The Environment

This symbol indicates a substance which can harm or kill any living things in the environment. This may include aquatic species in lakes getting killed because of dangerous substances being thrown around the area. Substances like these may include white spirits, which is used to clean paint from clothes.

If you come in contact with a substance like this, do not throw it away down the drain, into the ground, into a lake or any other natural habitat as it may kill or harm trees, plants, fish, animals and other living things. Always handle substances like this with extreme caution and always dispose carefully, in bins which allow toxic and dangerous substances to be thrown into. Consult your council for more information.

NEW: Hazardous To Life

This image shows that the chemical liquid or gas may cause problems for the organism including the respiratory, sensory and nervous systems. These substances are highly dangerous and life threatening! Do not come in contact with these substances and always consult a scientist for more information.

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Please Note...

The author of this text does not claim any responsibility for accidents that occur in the laboratory, always consult an expert for more information. All experiment are carried out at your own risk.

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    • nisargmehta profile image

      NISARG MEHTA 4 years ago from SURAT, Gujarat, India

      Nice hub. I will be waiting for more such signs and their details. Thanks for sharing. [Smiles]

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Thanks for the wonderful comments! Don't worry, I'll be updating this again so make sure to stay tuned! I've plans for a lot more signs and their details down the pipeline!

    • nisargmehta profile image

      NISARG MEHTA 4 years ago from SURAT, Gujarat, India

      Sounds great!!! Will be waiting for more.. [Smiles]

    • cuttler profile image

      Cuttler 4 years ago from HubPages

      Thanks for sharing this. I often confuse these warning signs and it's great that you decided to share this. Hope to see more of the signs. Nice hub

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Thanks so much for the great comment! I'll be updating next week fo make sure to stop by!

    • profile image

      Mati 3 years ago

      Thank you very much for such a great sign

      Awesome description ,

      Thanks for solved my problem

    • profile image

      tae joon soo 3 years ago

      thanks for posting this....this will help me to prevent accidents.....

    • profile image

      Kas 3 years ago

      Cool signs ur good

    • profile image

      Ashley 3 years ago

      this helped me

    • profile image

      Epic cheese 3 years ago

      needs more variety of signs other than radioactive based ones

    • profile image

      bub 2 years ago

      this is actually very useful

    • profile image

      Hello 2 years ago

      Nice information! Maybe give more examples of these symbols in everyday life. Thanks

    • profile image

      jai 2 years ago

      great

    • profile image

      Jordan 2 years ago

      add a radioactive sign but make it secondary

    • profile image

      catherine 22 months ago

      it was a big help thanks !

    • susi10 profile image
      Author

      Susan W 22 months ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Thanks Catherine! Glad I could help!

    • profile image

      sara 18 months ago

      this was good

    • profile image

      Peter 8 months ago

      Thanks! It helped me a lot about my homework! :)

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