History and Use of the Biological Hazard Symbol

The standard biohazard labels in use today has been around since 1966. It is one of the most universally recognized symbols in modern history. The importance of this symbol is what gives adequate warning that you are near or handling items that contain biological materials that have the ability to cause adverse health conditions, if exposed. Below is a more detailed look at the history and use of this symbol.


Who Designed the Biological Hazard Symbol?

Charles Baldwin, a retired environmental engineer was working for the Dow Chemical Company in 1966. He was helping design containment boxes for cancerous materials. He noted the myriads of symbols used to try and warn people of biological hazardous materials. The lack of uniformity concerned him, so he spent quality time designing the symbol you see in use today. It was published in a magazine called "Science" in 1967 and quickly accepted by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.



What Is the Symbol Used For?

The symbol is used to warn of the presence of a chemical or substance that is deemed harmful to people or animals. Any items that are used to store, transport and receive biological hazard materials must be clearly biohazard labels. It has become a universally recognized symbol.


What Is Classified as a Biological Hazard?

Biological hazards are things such as used needs, scalpel blades, tubes used to transport or contain blood or other body fluids, donated organs, blood plasma, whole blood products, viruses, bacteria and any chemical or substance that can cause serious human illness when exposed. They must all be labeled as infectious, testing or regulated medical waste.


Levels of Biological Hazards

There are four levels of biological hazard, with one being the lowest threat and four being the most hazardous. Level one hazards are viruses like chicken pox. It takes very little protection beyond gloves and mask. Level two cause only mild sickness to humans, such as salmonella or Hepatitis A, B and C. Level three are able to cause serious illness, but there are treatments available, such as West Nile Virus and SARS. Level four is the most serious and can cause illness for which there is no cure, such as Ebola and smallpox.


What Types of Businesses Are Required to Have Biological Hazard Symbols Displayed?

All medical clinics, hospitals and testing facilities have to have designated areas for storage and containment of medical waste and testing materials. Physical therapy clinics, tattoo and body piercing and hotels must have containers that are clearly marked with biological hazards. Research facilities and veterinarians are also held to biological hazard symbol stipulations.

Contact experts in creating biological hazard symbols to get all of the warning signs you need to stay in compliance.