Differences Between Hazardous Chemicals and Dangerous Goods

Little Pro on 2018-10-04

Many people are not clear about the definition of hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods and use those 2 terms interchangeably. In this article we will compare their differences and show you how to find out if a product belongs to hazardous chemicals or dangerous goods.

Definition of Hazardous Chemicals

There is no global regulatory definition of hazardous chemicals. Generally speaking, hazardous chemicals refer to any substances or mixtures that may pose harm to facilities/property, human health and the enviroment. A more professional definition is based on the UN GHS purple book - the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Any substances or mixtures meeting GHS classification criteria for physical hazards, health hazards and enviromental hazards will be regarded as hazardous chemicals.

For hazardous chemicals, GHS-format safety data sheets and GHS labels should be provided to recipents. To find out if a product belongs to hazardous chemicals, one should firstly check if the product is a chemical substance or mixture and then check if it meets GHS classification criteria.

It should be noted that the definition for hazardous chemicals may slightly vary from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction. This is mainly because different jurisdictions may have adopted different versions of UN GHS and different GHS building blocks. Some jursdictions may have included chemical hazards that are not covered by GHS. For example, US has adopted flammable liquids category 4 while EU has not adopted it. In addition, US has adopted simple asphyxiants and combustible dust which are not in GHS yet. In China,  chemical products classified with certain GHS hazard categories will be regarded as hazardous chemicals and require registrations. 

Definition of Dangerous Goods

Dangerous goods are solids, liquids, or gases that can harm people, other living organisms, property, or the environment. In the United States and sometimes in Canada dangerous goods are more commonly known as hazardous materials. A more professional defintion is from dangerous goods regulations. Any goods listed in the dangerous goods list or meeting dangerous goods classification criteria for 9 classes will be regarded as dangerous goods.

Dangerous goods are subject to stringent transport regulations. No person may offer or accept dangerous goods for transport unless those goods are properly classified, packaged, marked, labelled, placarded, described and certificated on a transport document. Dangerous goods are usually assigned with UN number and proper shipping name

To find out if a hazardous chemical belongs to dangerous goods, one shall refer to the section 14 of safety data sheet to see if there is a UN number listed. If yes, the chemical product belongs to dangerous goods. For articles, there might be no safety data sheet at all. In this case, please consut a professional DG advisor. 

Differences between Hazardous Chemicals and Dangerous Goods

Not all hazardous chemicals belong to dangerous goods. There are only 9 classes of dangerous goods and they only consider acute toxicity hazards. Even CMR(carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive toxicant) substances which are considered as of the greatest health concern under GHS are not covered by the 9 DG classes. 

Not all dangerous goods are hazardous chemicals. This is because dangerous goods not only include hazardous chemicals, but also include articles. For example, air bags and lithium batteries belong to dangerous goods. However, they are not regarded as hazardous chemicals.

Chemicals that belong to dangerous goods are usually hazardous chemicals. The only exceptions are infectious substances/mixtures and radioactive substances/mixtures. They are covered by the 9 DG classifies but not covered by GHS classification criteria.

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