hazardous material

Five-gallon containers hold radioactive source material

Hazardous materials (HazMat) – any substance or material could adversely affect the safety of the public, handlers or carriers during transportation. All DOT hazardous materials are listed in the DOT’s Hazardous Material Table. There are nine classes of hazardous materials

  • DOT Definition of Hazardous Material:

Dangerous materials. These are

  • Carcinogens, or cancer-causing poisons;for example acrylamide, Asbestos, benzene
  • Mutagens, or mutation-causing poisons such as radiation, benzene
  • Teratogens, or birth defect-causing poisons; Thalidomide, alcohol


  • poisons are substances that cause disturbances to organisms. This is usually done by a chemical reaction. The effect of the poison varies with the amount which is absorbed by the organism. A dose of poison can cause harmful effects or injuries or even death. Substance which has the properties of a poison is poisonous or toxic. If poisoning causes death, it is lethal poison. Legally, and in hazardous chemical labeling, poisons are especially toxic substances. Less toxic substances are labeled “harmful”, “irritant”, or not labeled at all.
  • biological hazard, or biohazard, is anything coming from living organisms (i.e. pollen, fungi, animals, insects, bacteria and viruses) that could be a threat to someone’s health. It is represented by ☣, the biohazard symbol, which is used everywhere in the world. When people see this sign they know to take precautions, and to follow proper conduct for science labs.
This shape is used all over the world to tell people of a biological hazard.

Warnings, labeling




That’s engineering

  • chemical reaction – happens when one or more chemicals are changed into one or more other chemicals. Examples: iron and oxygen combining to make rust; vinegar and baking soda combining to make sodium acetate, carbon dioxide and water; things burning or exploding
  • absorption – a condition in which something takes in another substance. It is a physical or chemical phenomenon or process, in which atoms, molecules, or ions enter a ‘bulk phase’ – gas, liquid, or solid material.
  • inhibition – an agent or substance that slows, interferes or stops a chemical action

Engineering ideas

  • public safety, handling, transportation, containers, chemical reaction, absorb, lethal, toxic, irritant, labeling

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • Find some examples of hazardous materials and how to handle them safely.
  • Find examples of hazardous materials accidents. What happened? How could this dangerous situation been avoided?