Biological Hazard Symbol
The biohazard symbol was developed by the Dow Chemical Company in 1966 for their containment products. According to Charles Baldwin, an environmental-health engineer who contributed to its development: “We wanted something that was memorable but meaningless, so we could educate people as to what it means.” In an article he wrote for Science in 1967, the symbol was presented as the new standard for all biological hazards (“biohazards”). The article explained that over 40 symbols were drawn up by Dow artists, and all of the symbols investigated had to meet a number of criteria:
- (1) Striking in form in order to draw immediate attention;
- (2) Unique and unambiguous, in order not to be confused with symbols used for other purposes;
- (3) Quickly recognizable and easily recalled;
- (4) Easily stenciled;
- (5) Symmetrical, in order to appear identical from all angles of approach;
- (6) Acceptable to groups of varying ethnic backgrounds.
The chosen symbol scored the best on nationwide testing for memorability.
The design was first specified in 39 FR 23680 but was dropped in the succeeding amendment. However, various US states adopted the specification for their state code.