IAEA Launches New Radiation Symbol

Posted on February 17, 2007

New Radiation SymbolThere's a new radiation symbol in town and it shows a person running away from dangerous radioactive waves. The red and black symbol also includes a skull and crossbones. The IAEA reported on their own launch of the symbol.
With radiating waves, a skull and crossbones and a running person, a new ionizing radiation warning symbol is being introduced to supplement the traditional international symbol for radiation, the three cornered trefoil.

The new symbol is being launched today by the IAEA and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to help reduce needless deaths and serious injuries from accidental exposure to large radioactive sources. It will serve as a supplementary warning to the trefoil, which has no intuitive meaning and little recognition beyond those educated in its significance.


The new symbol is aimed at alerting anyone, anywhere to the potential dangers of being close to a large source of ionizing radiation, the result of a five-year project conducted in 11 countries around the world. The symbol was tested with different population groups - mixed ages, varying educational backgrounds, male and female - to ensure that its message of "danger - stay away" was crystal clear and understood by all.

Ms. Eliana Amaral, Director, Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety, IAEA, says in the announcement, "I believe the international recognition of the specific expertise of both organizations will ensure that the new standard will be accepted and applied by governments and industry to improve the safety of nuclear applications, protection of people and the environment."

It is a scarier warning symbol than the old one.

Update 2-19-06: J-Walk has a funny explanation for the change: "My guess is that too many people were interpreting the old symbol to mean 'reel-to-reel tapes nearby.'"

Photo: Image: International Atomic Energy Agency