The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has a
system (careful this link is a 383-page
PDF file that opens a new window) of signs and placards
to identify hazardous materials and dangerous chemicals
in transit. This is supposed to warn people on the roads
of potential dangers.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a system
of signs and codes that identifes fire, heatlth, explosive
and other hazards in buildings and structures before they are
entered. This is supposed to warn firefighters of potential
dangers when they are responding to an emergency.
These systems are great - simple, descriptive, effective - ways
to protect people from necessary dangers present in our environment.
Yes, transporting gasoline is dangerous, but if we didn't do it,
only the people who lived within driving distance of an oil field
could have cars. And a lot of those oil fields are a long way
from where a lot of people live. Like Texas. Or the Middle East.
And who the hell wants to live in either of those places.
While these systems are a great idea, they don't really
go far enough. Organic Peroxide is a hazardous material when
it's in a tanker truck and has to be marked as a potential danger
according to the DOT, but when it's in the hair of a woman in a
bar after midnight, it doesn't have to be marked at all. And,
it's still a hazard, just a different kind. Finding a way to
mark this kind of this hazard could avert some real disasters.
We're working to extend the conventional hazmat marking system
to handle situations ranging from the bleached blonde at the
bar to the flatulent guy on the subway by issuing new hazmat warning
codes. Send your suggestions to
We'd like to hear what you think.
The new hazmat warning codes will be updated to include the
personal and social and intellectual threats that these hazardous
materials, and others like them, pose to society. We're extending
the signs and codes to classify books, movies, tv shows, magazines,
ideas and even people.
Everything should be labeled appropriately.