Chemical Categories


A to Z | By Category

Scientists often categorize hazardous chemicals by the type of chemical or by the effects a chemical would have on people exposed to it. The categories/types used by CDC are as follows:


Poisons that come from plants or animals

Blister Agents/Vesicants

Chemicals that severely blister the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin on contact

Blood Agents

Poisons that affect the body by being absorbed into the blood

Caustics (Acids)

Chemicals that burn or corrode people’s skin, eyes, and mucus membranes (lining of the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs) on contact

Choking/Lung/Pulmonary Agents

Chemicals that cause severe irritation or swelling of the respiratory tract (lining of the nose, throat, and lungs)

Incapacitating Agents

Drugs that make people unable to think clearly or that cause an altered state of consciousness (possibly unconsciousness)

Long-Acting Anticoagulants

Poisons that prevent blood from clotting properly, which can lead to uncontrolled bleeding


Agents that consist of metallic poisons

Nerve Agents

Highly poisonous chemicals that work by preventing the nervous system from working properly

Organic Solvents

Agents that damage the tissues of living things by dissolving fats and oils

Riot Control Agents/Tear Gas

Highly irritating agents normally used by law enforcement for crowd control or by individuals for protection (for example, mace)

  • Bromobenzylcyanide (CA)
  • Chloroacetophenone (CN)
  • Chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS)
  • Chloropicrin (PS)
  • Dibenzoxazepine (CR)

Toxic Alcohols

Poisonous alcohols that can damage the heart, kidneys, and nervous system

Vomiting Agents

Chemicals that cause nausea and vomiting

Page last reviewed: April 4, 2018