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Warning sign W009 according to DIN EN ISO 7010: Warning of biohazard

Example of biohazard labelling: a plastic container for used needles

The symbol biohazard (☣)(English Biohazard – Short for biological hazard) identifies specific biological hazard points. The symbol was developed and established as part of a study led by Charles Baldwin at Dow Chemical in 1966.[1]

Objects marked with the symbol represent hazards to humans and the environment from biological substances or organisms. Examples include medical waste, biological samples contaminated with microorganisms, viruses, toxins from biological sources, etc. that are pathogenic to humans, animals or plants and thus represent a potential hazard. Such substances are marked with the appropriate warning sign to draw attention to their correct handling, for example the wearing of appropriate protective clothing and proper disposal.

In the context of civil protection and hazard prevention, the term biological hazards is used, for details see there.

The biohazard is classified into four risk groups, details can be found under Biological Protection Level and Biological Safety Level.

Biohazardous substances are classified for transport according to UN numbers under dangerous goods legislation:

  • UN 2814 (substances infectious to humans)
  • UN 2900 (infectious substances for animals)
  • UN 3291 (medical waste)
  • UN 3373 (biological substance, category B / for samples)

In Unicode, the corresponding symbol is found at the position U+2623 (☣).


The symbol was developed in 1966 at Dow Chemical with the aim of creating a uniform warning symbol to replace the previously inconsistent signs. The developers deliberately chose a symbol that could not be interpreted intuitively by the viewers of the time, but at the same time had a high recognition value. This forced everyone to consciously learn the meaning of the symbol, with a high probability of remembering it much later. The easy reproducibility with a felt-tip pen and the recognizability in any position also played a role.[2]

In popular culture

The symbol is used in connection with electronic music genres such as trance or hardstyle, among others. It is also the band logo of the New York hardcore band Biohazard.

See also

  • Environmentally hazardous substances (ECB)
  • Infectious substances (ADR 6.2)
  • NBC Defense

Individual references

  1. Charles L. Baldwin and Robert S. Runkle. Biohazards Symbol: Development of a Biological Hazards Warning Signal. Science October 13, 1967: vol. 158. no. 3798, pp. 264-265 doi:10.1126/science.158.3798.264.
  2. Symbol Making Archived from Original may 14, 2011. In: New York Times Magazine. November 18, 2001.