Ancora Imparo

27 February 2007

Radioactive Warning Symbol Upgrade

Filed under: science — Darmok @ 05:05 UTC

Traditional radiation warning symbol.
The trefoil, the traditional international warning symbol for radiation. Source: Wikipedia.

The yellow and black “trefoil” is familiar to many of us as a warning symbol for radiation or radioactive materials. It is used internationally and is well-established. Yet there is nothing inherent in the symbol to suggest either radiation or danger, aside perhaps from the yellow color used. If one has not been educated about what the symbol represents, it will be meaningless to him.

New, supplementary radiation symbol.
The new, supplementary warning symbol. Source: IAEA.

As a result, New Scientist reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency is adding a new symbol to supplement the old one. This symbol incorporates the trefoil, but also shows it leading to a skull and crossbones, signifying death, as well as a person running away. The IAEA’s tests suggest that people could easily understand the danger it was conveying.

At first glance, it appears a bit extreme. This is not a replacement, though. The IAEA states

The symbol is intended for IAEA Category 1, 2 and 3 sources defined as dangerous sources capable of death or serious injury, including food irradiators, teletherapy machines for cancer treatment and industrial radiography units. The symbol is to be placed on the device housing the source, as a warning not to dismantle the device or to get any closer. It will not be visible under normal use, only if someone attempts to disassemble the device. The symbol will not be located on building access doors, transportation packages or containers.


  1. I don’t like the new symbol. It looks like a fan is blowing on the skull and the running man.

    Comment by bebesundrop — 27 February 2007 @ 05:40 UTC

  2. Maybe he is running to keep in shape and the fan is keeping him cool. And maybe he’s a pirate.

    Comment by Darmok — 27 February 2007 @ 06:13 UTC

  3. Looks like UFO causes death: exit this way!

    Comment by inel — 27 February 2007 @ 16:47 UTC

  4. Maybe it is you! And YOU are a pirate!

    Comment by bebesundrop — 28 February 2007 @ 04:23 UTC

  5. Maybe I am a pirate and I’m going to raid the UFO.

    Comment by Darmok — 2 March 2007 @ 01:13 UTC

  6. Eh, I like the standard trefoil a lot more. This new symbol is overcrowded.

    Comment by Cyde Weys — 4 March 2007 @ 15:03 UTC

  7. I wonder if there is any symbol that suggest radioactivity, since the trefoil is so arbitrary. It’s quite difficult to create symbols for such abstract concepts!

    Comment by Darmok — 5 March 2007 @ 08:08 UTC

  8. i like radioactive things

    Comment by fazu — 4 January 2008 @ 01:13 UTC

  9. me too

    Comment by 7rost.angel — 13 February 2008 @ 15:21 UTC

  10. I think it would do well atop the pyamid on the U.S. dollar…

    Comment by Yerbro — 3 October 2008 @ 05:42 UTC

  11. errrr…I don’t like this new image…
    it’s very crowded and it’s not easy to seems like a skull is going to kill the person because of the wind from the fan.(it’s like the skull is hypnotized by the radiation)

    Comment by JM — 2 August 2009 @ 11:25 UTC

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