GHS, Schmee-H-S…Part 3

What Do Those Other Little Weird Pictures Mean?

Exclamation Point


This is one of the less obvious pictogram symbols. It looks as if it might just be calling your attention to a hazard. And in a way that’s true. This symbol is saying, “This substance is harmful, but not life-threatening.” It is used with statements like “Harmful if swallowed/inhaled/in contact with skin” (but not fatal or toxic) or “Causes skin irritation” (but not chemical burns) or “Causes serious eye irritation” (but not immediate damage). It is also used for substances which may cause an allergic skin reaction or respiratory irritation, drowsiness, or dizziness.


Health Hazard

This one looks as if it might be warning you of a heart attack. In fact, it is warning you of hidden or invisible effects. It’s called the Health Hazard pictorial, and it is used mostly for serious chronic effects, with statements like “May cause genetic defects”, or “May cause cancer”, or “May damage fertility or the unborn child.” It is also used for severe internal effects, like “Causes damage to organs” (whether immediately or after prolonged or repeated exposure), or “May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways” (Aspiration Hazard), or “May cause allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled.”

Flame Over Circle


This symbol is, of course, familiar to all you chemists out there. For the rest of you, I will explain that it marks an oxidizer; in simple terms, a substance that releases or causes the release of oxygen and can thereby cause or intensify a fire or an explosion.







This one, which I think of as the “dead fish pictogram” simply warns of toxicity to aquatic life, whether immediate or long-term. Be careful not to allow this substance to be released to the environment.



All right! This concludes my tutorial on the Weird Little GHS Pictogram Symbols. Thanks for sticking with me this far – I hope this makes the new labels easier to understand.

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