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9.9 Acute Toxins

OSHA defines a chemical as being highly toxic if it falls within any of the following categories:

  1. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD50) of 50 milligrams or less per kilogram of body weight when administered orally to albino rats weighing between 200 and 300 grams each. 
  2. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD50) of 200 milligrams or less per kilogram of body weight when administered by continuous contact for 24 hours (or less if death occurs within 24 hours) with the bare skin of albino rabbits weighing between two and three kilograms each. 
  3. A chemical that has a median lethal concentration (LC50) in air of 200 parts per million by volume or less of gas or vapor, or 2 milligrams per liter or less of mist, fume, or dust, when administered by continuous inhalation for one hour (or less if death occurs within one hour) to albino rats weighing between 200 and 300 grams each.

Information on determining whether or not a chemical meets one of these definitions can be found in SDSs and other chemical references

As with any particularly hazardous substance, work involving the use of acute toxins should adhere to the Guidelines for Working with Particularly Hazardous Substances. In addition to following the Guidelines for Working with Particularly Hazardous Substances, additional guidelines for working with acute toxins include:

  • Consider storing highly toxic materials in a locked storage cabinet.
  • Be aware of any special antidotes that may be required in case of accidental exposure (Hydrofluoric acid and inorganic cyanides for example).
  • Give particular attention to the selection of gloves and other personal protective equipment. 
  • Do not work with highly toxic chemicals outside of a fume hood, glove box or ventilated enclosure.

More information on acute toxins, including numerous useful web links, can be found on the OSHA Safety and Health Topics for Hazardous and Toxic Substances webpage.

Please note: in addition to the OSHA definition, Cornell University has a Poison Inhalation Hazard Purchasing Policy – Requisitioning Procedure No. 228.