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Environmental Health & Safety


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  2. The term “hazardous chemical” refers to a chemical for which there is statistical evidence that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees, or if it is listed in any of the following:

    • OSHA, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Z, Toxic and Hazardous Substances;
    • “Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents in the Work Environment”, ACGIH (latest edition)
    • “The Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances”, NIOSH (latest edition); or,
    • Select Agents Regulations: 42 CFR 73, 9 CFR 121, and 7 CFR 331.

    In 2012, OSHA revised the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 29 CFR 1910.1200 and aligned the program with the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.  One key component of the updated program utilizes pictograms to help identify hazards.  The pictogram and the common descriptions of the hazards identified are listed below.  Some chemicals and most mixtures could have more than one pictogram to identify the hazard(s).

    1. Types of Health Hazards
      1. Irritants:  Irritants are agents that can cause inflammation of the body surface with which they come in contact.  Irritants can also cause changes in the mechanics of respiration and lung function.  Common irritants include:
      2. Common Skin Irritants Common Respiratory Irritants
        Ammonia Acetic acid
        Alkaline dusts and mists Acrolein
        Acids Formaldehyde
        Halogens Formic acid
        Nitrogen dioxide Halogens
        Ozone Hydrochloric acid (hydrogen chloride)
        Phosgene Sulfer dioxide
        Phosphorous chloride Sulfuric acid

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals in this hazard group is:
      3. Asphyxiants:  Ashpyxiants are broken into two groups. Simple asphyxiants deprive the tissue of oxygen.  Chemical asphyxiants render the body incapable of maintaining an adequate oxygen supply.  Examples include:
      4. Simple Asphyxiants Chemical Asphyxiants
        Carbon dioxide Carbon monoxide
        Helium Cyanides
        Nitrogen Hydrogen sulfide
        Nitrous oxide  

        The pictograms for many of the chemicals for this hazard group can include:
      5. Hepatotoxic agents:  Hepatotoxic agents cause damage to the liver.  Examples include:
      6. Carbon tetrachloride Ethylene dibromide
        Dichloropropane Nitrosamines
        Dimethylformamide Tetrachloroethane

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      7. Nephrotoxic agents: Nephrotoxic agents damage the kidneys.  Examples include:
      8. Cyclosporin NSAIDs
        Ethylene glycol Radiological contrast media
        Halogenated hydrocarbons Uranium compounds

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      9. Neurotoxic agents: Neurotoxic agents damage the nervous system.  Generally, the nervous system is sensitive to organometallic compounds and sulfide compounds.  Examples include:
      10. Carbon disulfide Methyl mercury
        Chlorinated solvents Naphthalene
        Formaldehyde N-hexane
        Manganese Organic phosphorous insecticides
        Lithium Tetraethyl lead
        Methylene chloride Thallium
        Methyl diisocyanide Trialkyl tin compounds

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      11. Hematopoietic System Effects: These agents act on the blood.  The blood cells can be directly affected or the bone marrow can be damaged.  Examples include:
        • Analine
        • Benzene
        • Nitrites
        • Nitrobenzene
        • Toluidine

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      12. Carcinogens:  A carcinogen is any agent that can initiate or speed the development of malignant or potentially malignant tumors, or malignant neoplastic proliferation of cells.  Select carcinogens are those substances that meet one of the following criteria:
        • It is regulated by OSHA as a carcinogen;
        • It is listed under the category ”known to be carcinogens”, as listed in the latest edition of the National Toxicology Program’s  (NTP) “Annual Report of Carcinogens”; or,
        • It is listed under Group 1, “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs (IARC).

        Carcinogens are too numerous to list in this section but are listed in Appendix 12 of this document.

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      13. Reproductive hazards: Reproductive hazards are those chemicals that affect the reproductive health of women and men or the ability to have healthy children. This can be from chromosomal damage (mutagens) and effects on the fetus (teratogens). Mutagens change the genetic material, usually DNA, and increase frequency of mutations. A teratogen is an agent that interferes with normal embryonic development with damage to the mother or lethal effects on the fetus. Examples include:
      14. Dioxin Many pesticides
        Endocrine disrupters Carbon disulfide
        Lead Ethylene oxide

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      15. Sensitizer:  A sensitizer is an agent that causes a majority of the exposed population to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposures to the chemicals. Reactions can range from mild, such as a rash, to severe, such as anaphylactic shock.
      16. Chlorinated hydrocarbons Nickel compounds
        Chromium compounds Toluene diisocyanates

        The pictograms for many of the chemicals for this hazard group can include:
      17. Acutely Toxic Chemicals:  These chemicals are substances falling into the following categories:
        • A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD50) of 50 mg/kg or less of body weight, when administered to rats weighing 200 to 300 g each;
        • A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD50) of 2000 mg/kg or less of body weight, when administered by continuous contact for 24 hours to the bare skin of rabbits weighing 200 to 300 g each; or,
        • A chemical that has a median lethal concentration (LC50) in air of 200 ppm by volume or less when administered by continuous inhalation for one hour to rats weighing 200 to 300 g each.

        A list of acutely toxic chemicals is listed in Appendix 12 of this document.

        The pictograms for many of the chemicals for this hazard group can include:
      18. Nanomaterials:  The health effects of exposure to nanomaterials are not fully understood at this time.  Until the potential risks and more definitive findings are available, researchers working with nanomaterials must implement a combination of engineering controls, work place practices and use personal protective equipment to minimize potential exposures.  Follow the guidelines outlined in the UofR’s Nanomaterials Safety Program at and the “Site Specific Procedures for Nanomaterials" in Appendix 12 of this document.
      19. There is no pictogram for this group of chemicals. The appropriate pictogram is based on the hazard of the chemical(s) present.

    2. Physical Hazards
      1. Flammable agents:  Flammable agents are any solid, liquid, or gas that will ignite easily and burn rapidly.
        1. Flammable solids can include dusts or fine powders (metallic or organic substances such as cellulose, flour, etc.), those that ignite spontaneously at low temperatures (white phosphorous), those in which internal heat is built up by microbial or other degradation activities, or films, fibers, and fabrics of low-ignition point materials.
        2. Flammable liquids are classified by the NFPA and the DOT as those having a flash point less than 100F and a vapor pressure of not over 40 psia at 100F.
        3. Flammable gases are ignited very easily and the flame and heat propagation rate is so great as to resemble an explosion, especially if the gas is confined.  Common examples of flammable gases include hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and acetylene.

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      2. Combustible agents:  Combustible solids are those solids that are relatively difficult to ignite and that burn relatively slowly.  Combustible liquids were previously defined as those liquids that have a flash point greater than 100F. Under the GHS, chemicals in this grouping are now listed under flammable agents. Examples include:
      3. Greases Mineral oil
        Kerosene Paraffin oil
        Lubricants Vegetable oil

        The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      4. Oxidizers: Oxidizers are agents that, by yielding oxygen, may cause or contribute to the combustion of other materials. Examples can include oxygen, nitric acid, hydrogen peroxide, perchlorates, permanagnates.
      5. The pictogram for many of the chemicals for this hazard group is:
      6. Compressed Gases / Cryogenic Liquids:  A compressed gas is a substance that is a gas at normal room temperature and pressure, and is contained under pressure, usually in a cylinder. Some compressed gases (e.g. acetylene) are stabilized in the cylinder by dissolving the gas in a liquid or solid matrix. These materials can pose both a health hazard and a physical hazard to personnel. Compressed gases can create pressure hazards and dilute the oxygen content or create flammable atmospheres should a sudden release occur.
      7. The pictogram for many of the chemicals in this hazard group is:
      8. Explosive, Highly Reactive / Unstable Materials:  These substances have the potential to decompose, condense, vigorously polymerize, react with water, react with moisture in the air, or otherwise form peroxides upon exposure to light or oxygen in the air. A list of these chemicals is too numerous to include here and can be found in the appendices of this document.
      9. The pictograms for many of the chemicals in this hazard group can include:
    3. Special Hazardous Chemical Groupings
    4. Laboratory locations may use some chemicals for research or clinical purposes that EH&S has developed safe work practices.  These include but are not limited to antineoplastic agents, agents that can cause cancer or reproductive effects, hydrogen fluoride, formaldehyde, compressed gases, and cryogenic liquids.  Consult the EH&S web pages at for these special handling and work practice information sheets.  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for classes of chemicals, some specific chemicals and certain processes is provided in Appendices of this document.

    5. High Hazard Chemicals
    6. Some laboratory locations may use some high hazard chemicals that may present severe health and/or physical hazards that require approval prior to purchase and use in experimental procedures. These agents include:

      It is the responsibility of the PI/supervisor to develop Site Specific Procedures (SOPs) for the use of these agents and to provide the Laboratory Safety Unit copies of the SOPs prior to the purchase and use of these agents.  The Laboratory Safety Unit will audit the SOPs and complete a workplace evaluation for the planned storage/use location and, upon successful findings, authorize the purchase/use of the planned agents.  Periodic workplace evaluations as required by the pertinent regulation will be completed.  Records of these evaluations will be retained by the Laboratory Safety Unit.

QUESTIONS or COMMENTS? Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 7/30/2015. Disclaimer.