I'm writing a small little tool (something like an interactive periodic table) and I wanted a good "guesstimate" of the danger of certain elements, to visualize across said table.

I could go and guess by manually looking up the physical / chemical / health / other effects of every element, but that would take an obscene amount of time and effort, not to mention it wouldn't be very accurate / precise.

My question is, is there a standard or "list" recognized internationally as a good scale of the danger of certain elements?

I know of the NFPA 704 Hazard Classification diamond, and while that would be perfect for my use, it doesn't classify every element, mainly just chemical compounds + a few noteworthy elements.

For example, I could find an NFPA 704 for just about every major compound of arsenic, but not pure arsenic (the element), which would be a pretty obviously dangerous element.

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    $\begingroup$ GHS. $\endgroup$
    – andselisk
    Jan 12, 2023 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ You are asking for an international standard or an internationally recognized list; however, the NFPA diamond you give as an example is neither. $\endgroup$
    – Loong
    Jan 12, 2023 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @DrMoishePippik as I mentioned in the question, I was specifically looking for a system of measuring safety as a whole.. simplistically. I also specifically mentioned that I wanted to avoid having to look up the safety data sheets / other measurements manually for every element by hand. $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2023 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ Assessing the safety of an element if pretty futile, it only makes sense for specific compounds. Chlorine gas is dangerous and toxic, but PVC (a polymer containing chlorine)is pretty inert and table salt (NaCl) is safe and a vital ingredient for life. How to rate the element makes little sense given those facts. $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Mar 2, 2023 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ @matt_black That... that logic makes no sense. Im assessing the danger of elements on their own, not their compounds. NaCl might be safe, but Na and Cl on their own can be very dangerous. You can very much so rate an element and give it safety regulations / standards, as the answer to this question has already proven. $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2023 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


You can check the European ECHA Database (or the corresponding original CLP Regulation), which uses the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) managed by the United Nations, if it contains the relevant elements.

For arsenic, you would find that it's

  • Toxic if swallowed (H301)
  • Toxic if inhaled (H331)
  • Very toxic to aquatic life (H400)
  • Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects (H410)

skull and crossbones (GHS06) environment (GHS09)

  • $\begingroup$ thanks, this will work for what I need. Ill have to estimate a kind of scoring system to actually visualize it, but this is a good start. $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2023 at 3:44

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