Dangerous goods

  • Overview
  • Other resources
  • Class 1
  • Class 2
  • Class 3
  • Class 4
  • Class 5
  • Class 6
  • Class 7
  • Class 8
  • Class 9

A dangerous good is any solid, liquid, or gas that can harm people, other living organisms, property, or the environment. An equivalent term, used almost exclusively in the United States, is hazardous material (hazmat). Dangerous goods may be radioactive, flammable, explosive, toxic, corrosive, biohazardous, an oxidizer, an asphyxiant, a pathogen, an allergen, or may have other characteristics that render it hazardous in specific circumstances.

Mitigating the risks associated with hazardous materials may require the application of safety precautions during their transport, use, storage and disposal. Most countries regulate hazardous materials by law, and they are subject to several international treaties as well.

Persons who handle dangerous goods will often wear protective equipment, and metropolitan fire departments often have a response team specifically trained to deal with accidents and spills. These teams train with different organizations at a variety of specialized locations. Some of the most well-known in the U.S. and Canada include the California Specialized Training Institute, the Texas A&M TEEX Academy, Signet North America, the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and the U.S. National Fire Academy.

Laws and regulations on the use and handling of hazardous materials may differ depending on the activity and status of the material. For example one set of requirements may apply to their use in the workplace while a different requirements may apply to spill response, sale for consumer use, or transportation. Most countries regulate some aspect of hazardous materials.

The most widely applied regulatory scheme is that for the transportation of dangerous goods. The Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods of the United Nations Economic and Social Council issues Model Regulations on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods. Most regional and national regulatory schemes for hazardous materials are harmonized to a greater or lesser degree with the UN Model Regulation. For instance, the International Civil Aviation Organization has developed regulations for air transport of hazardous materials that are based upon the UN Model but modified to accommodate unique aspects of air transport. Individual airline and governmental requirements are incorporated with this by the International Air Transport Association to produce the widely used IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations. Similarly, the International Maritime Organization has developed the IMO Dangerous Goods Regulations for transportation on the high seas. Many individual nations have also structured their dangerous goods transportation regulations to harmonize with the UN Model in organization as well as in specific requirements.

Dangerous goods are divided into classes on the basis of the specific chemical characteristics producing the risk.

Note: The graphics and text in this article representing the dangerous goods safety marks are derived from the United Nations-based system of identifying dangerous goods. Not all countries use precisely the same graphics (label, placard and/or text information) in their national regulations. Some use graphic symbols, but without English wording or with similar wording in their national language. Refer to the Dangerous Goods Transportation Regulations of the country of interest.

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Explosives with a mass explosion hazard. (nitroglycerin/dynamite)
Explosives with a blast/projection hazard
Explosives with a minor blast hazard. (rocket propellant, display fireworks)
Explosives with a major fire hazard. (consumer fireworks, ammunition)
Blasting agents
Extremely insensitive explosives


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Class 2: Gases

Gases Gases which are compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure as detailed below. Some gases have subsidiary risk classes; poisonous or corrosive.

Flammable Gas: Gases which ignite on contact with an ignition source, such as acetylene and hydrogen.
Non-Flammable Gases: Gases which are neither flammable nor poisonous. Includes the cryogenic gases/liquids (temperatures of below -100°C) used for cryopreservation and rocket fuels, such as nitrogen and neon.
Poisonous Gases: Gases liable to cause death or serious injury to human health if inhaled; examples are fluorine, chlorine, and hydrogen cyanide.



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Class 3: Flammable Liquids

Flammable liquids included in Class 3 are included in one of the following packing groups: Packing Group I, if they have an initial boiling point of 35°C or less at an absolute pressure of 101.3 kPa and any flash point, such as diethyl ether or carbon disulfide; Packing Group II, if they have an initial boiling point greater than 35°C at an absolute pressure of 101.3 kPa and a flash point less than 23°C, such as gasoline (petrol) and acetone; or Packing Group III, if the criteria for inclusion in Packing Group I or II are not met, such as kerosene and diesel. Note: For further details, check the Dangerous Goods Transportation Regulations of the country of interest.


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Class 4: Flammable Solids

Flammable Solids: Solid substances that are easily ignited and readily combustible (nitrocellulose, magnesium, safety or strike-anywhere matches).
Spontaneously Combustible: Solid substances that ignite spontaneously (aluminium alkyls, white phosphorus).
Dangerous when Wet: Solid substances that emit a flammable gas when wet or react violently with water (sodium, calcium, potassium, calcium carbide).

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Class 5: Oxidizing Agents and Organic Peroxides

Oxidizing agents other than organic peroxides (calcium hypochlorite, ammonium nitrate, hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate).
Organic peroxides, either in liquid or solid form (benzoyl peroxides, cumene hydroperoxide).


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Class 6: Toxic and Infectious Substances

Toxic substances which are liable to cause death or serious injury to human health if inhaled, swallowed or by skin absorption (potassium cyanide, mercuric chloride).
(Now PGIII) Toxic substances which are harmful to human health (N.B this symbol is no longer authorized by the United Nations) (pesticides, methylene chloride).
Biohazardous substances; the World Health Organization (WHO) divides this class into two categories: Category A: Infectious; and Category B: Samples (virus cultures, pathology specimens, used intravenous needles).


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Class 7: Radioactive Substances

Radioactive substances comprise substances or a combination of substances which emit ionizing radiation (uranium, plutonium).

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Class 8: Corrosive Substances

Corrosive substances are substances that can dissolve organic tissue or severely corrode certain metals:

8.1 Acids: sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid
8.2 Alkalis: potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide

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Class 9: Miscellaneous

Hazardous substances that do not fall into the other categories (asbestos, air-bag inflators, self inflating life rafts, dry ice).




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