DEFINITION AND TERMS FOR HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

In situations where hazardous materials are stored and handled, both people and the environment need to be adequately protected. But how can these substances be defined and identified? And why do hazardous materials require special treatment?

To standardise the labeling of hazardous materials the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) was introduced by the CLP regulation of the EU.

What are some examples of hazardous materials?

The GHS symbols show that hazardous materials have certain characteristics which can be harmful.
But what exactly does the terminology mean? It can be explained as follows:

 Flammable

EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE
gases or materials whose vapours form potentially explosive mixtures with the surrounding air and which are extremely flammable in the presence of an ignition source; with a flash point lower than 0 °C and a boiling point lower than or equal to     35 °C, e.g. acetylene, hydrogen, diethyl ether.

HIGHLY FLAMMABLE
materials whose vapours form potentially explosive mixtures with the surrounding air and which are highly flammable in the presence of an ignition source; with a flash point lower than 23 °C and a boiling point higher than 35 °C, e.g. acetone, Petrol.

FLAMMABLE 
materials whose vapours form potentially explosive mixtures with the surrounding air and which are flammable in the presence of an ignition source; with a flash point equal to or greater than 23 °C and less than or equal to 60 °C and which support combustion when tested at 60 °C, e.g. styrene, turpentine oil.

 Toxicity

HIGHLY TOXIC 
materials which can cause temporary or permanent damage to health or even death, even in very small quantities, e.g. hydrogen cyanide, phosgene.

TOXIC
materials which can cause temporary or permanent damage to health or even death in small quantities, e.g. methanol, chlorine.

HAZARDOUS TO HEALTH
materials which can cause temporary or permanent damage to health or even death, e.g. glycol, iodine.

 Irritant

IRRITANT
materials which can cause inflammation upon contact with the skin or mucous membranes, e.g. hydrochloric acid between 10 and 25%, sodium hydroxide between 0.5 and 2%.

 Harmful for the human

SENSITISING
materials which may cause hypersensitive reactions when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, eg. cobalt, nickel, various diisocyanatas.

CARCINOGENIC
a material which can prompt the body’s own cells to form carcinomas, eg. asbestos, benzene.

REPRODUCTIVE TOXICITY
 materials which cause non-heritable damage to the progeny or increase their frequency and/or which may cause an impairment of the male or female reproduction functions or capability, eg. benzo[a]pyrene, 2-ethoxyethanol.

MUTAGENIC
materials which may cause heritable genetic damage, e.g. acrylamide, diethyl sulphate, ethylene oxide.

 Harmful for the environment

HARMFUL FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
materials which may damage animals, plants, microorganisms, climate, air, water or soil, e.g. diesel fuel, mercury, dichlorofluoroethane.

 Oxidising

OXIDISING
materials which can maintain a fire without air supply, e.g. sodium chlorate, sodium peroxide, nitric acid above 70%.

 Explosive

EXPLOSIVE
materials which can be brought to explode e.g. due to heat, friction, impact or initial ignition, e.g. nitroglycerine, dynamite, TNT.

CORROSIVE
are materials, which can cause destruction of body tissue upon contact with the skin or mucous membranes, e.g hydrochloric acid above 25 %, sodium hydroxide above
2 %.