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Hazardous Chemical Definition

A hazardous chemical is defined by OSHA as any chemical that is a health hazard or a physical hazard.

Health Hazard

OSHA defines a health hazard as a chemical for which there is statistically significant evidence based on at least one study conducted in accordance with established scientific principles that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees. Chemicals covered by this definition include carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents that act on the hematopoietic system, and agents that damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes.

Physical Hazard

OSHA defines a physical hazard as a chemical for which there is scientifically valid evidence that it is a combustible liquid, a compressed gas, explosive, flammable, an organic peroxide, an oxidizer, pyrophoric, unstable (reactive), or water-reactive.

Additional Hazardous Chemicals

The broad definition OSHA uses to define hazardous chemicals includes not only generic chemicals but also paints, cleaning compounds, inks, dyes, and many other common substances. Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine if the chemicals they produce or repackage meet the definition of a hazardous chemical. A chemical mixture may be considered as a whole or by its ingredients to determine its hazards. It may be considered as a whole if it has been tested as a whole and a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) has been issued accordingly. Otherwise the mixture must be evaluated by its components. If the mixture contains 1.0 percent or more of a hazardous chemical or 0.1 percent of an ingredient listed as a carcinogen or suspected carcinogen, the whole mixture is assumed to have the same health and/or carcinogenic hazards as its components.


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