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Definition of Biohazard

October 4, 2021

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Definition of Biohazard

Definition of Biohazard. We have been accustomed to seeing the word “biohazard” as well as the Universal “biohazard” symbol in everything from the medical environment to our favorite television shows and movies. For those in the industries involving biohazard, they know that there are specific compliance guidelines required for everything that is categorized as biohazardous.

The word “biohazard” is derived from the combination of “bio” for biological and “hazard” for dangerous. Biohazard means any biological material that carries a significant health risk for humans or the environment.  However, digging a little deeper the word “hazard” is believed to have been taken from a French word that had its origins in Arabic az-zahr, which means “one of the dice” or simply “the dice.”  It referred to a game that was later used by both the English and French involving dice and related to the idea of taking a chance based on the outcome of the throw of the dice in a risk or venture. The word “biological” was created in the early 19th century and was most widely used as a German term that was taken from the French who borrowed it from the Greek word “bios” which means “life” + -logy.

Biohazard Classifications and Levels

For the purpose of transportation, biohazardous agents are classified by – a 4-digit UN number based on a numbering series agreed upon by the United Nations for international travel, an “NA” number for transportation of hazardous materials transported in North America issued by the Department of Transportation, and/or an “ID” number for air transportation. Each numbering sequence identifies the type of hazardous materials contained. NA numbers are identical to UN numbers, however, there may be some substances that are not included in the UN numbering list that will have an NA number.

UN Categories:

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the U.S. created a series of levels of disease within the biohazard definition.


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