What is the Definition of a Hazardous Substance

A hazardous substance is any biological agent or other disease causing agent or any chemical which presents a health hazard. Hazardous substances can be found in such places as hospitals and other medical facilities, occupational facilities, like chemical, agricultural, industrial and research plants. Hazardous substances can also be found in our homes, examples are, bleach, drain and toilet cleaners, ant killer and other household pesticides. A hazardous substance maybe an explosive, a poison, a combustible substance or radioactive material.

Some Extremely Hazardous Substances defined by section 302 of the United States Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know are:








Ethylene Oxide

Hydrogen Chloride (gas)

Mustard Gas

Nitric Oxide





The use of hazardous materials in high tech equipments such as, cells phones, computers and other high technological items creates a major hazardous problem when they are disposed of in landfills.

There are six substances that are not allowed to be used in these high technological items in oder to avoid the aftermath of their hazardous effects ending up in land fills.

They are:




Hexavalent Chromium

Polybrominated Diphenyl

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether

The United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is an agency for the United States Department of Health and Human Services that is directed by a congressional mandate to perform specific functions concerning the effect on the health of the public regarding hazardous substances in the environment.

This agency is responsible for:

Public health assessments of waste sites.

Health consultations.

Hazardous substances

Health surveillance and registries.

Emergency response to releases of hazardous substances.

Applying research in support of health assessments, information documentation and dissemination.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor created by Congress. This act was signed by President Nixon, December 29, 1970. Assistant Secretary of Labor, Edwin Foulke has been the head of this agency since March, of 2006. The purpose of this agency is to prevent work related injuries, illness and death by enforcing rules for workplace safety and health. OSHA plays a vital role in work place regulations regarding hazardous substances.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

MSDS contain important information that describes and explain the properties of a particular hazardous substance. These data sheets give information regarding the specific hazardous substance regading:

Physical data.

Health effects.

How it reacts.

What kind of first aid treatment is needed in an exposure or accident with the substance.

How to clean up the area in case there is a spillage of the substance.

How to store and dispose of the substance.

These MSDS should be available in a manual in all hospitals or medical facilities on each substance used, example for cleaning and other purposes within these facilities. They should also be available in any occupational facilities where hazardous chemicals are used. OSHA also requires that MSDS must be made available to local fire departments and local and state emergency planning officials under section-311 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. Some jurisdiction imposes that each MSDS be regularly updated every 3 – 5 years.

Proper handling of hazardous products is a must to avoid injury to yourself, to others and contamination to the environment. It is best to use cleaning and other products that are safe and have no need for cautionary labels. However, if you must use a hazardous product be sure to read and follow the manufacture’s instructions. To obtain a MSDS for a product call Chemical Manufactures Association 1-800 262-8200, request the manufacture’s phone number and request a MSDS for the product from the manufacturer.

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