ICAO defines Dangerous Goods as “articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property or the environment.”
By that definition, this year certainly qualifies. If you could somehow ship the year 2020 in a box, you’d have to slap a hazmat label on it.
But which label? In which hazard class would you classify the year 2020? Let’s investigate …
Class 1 Explosives
If an explosion is something violent and destructive that blows things apart, then the year 2020 definitely qualifies. It blew up everything! In his presentation at the 2020 Dangerous Good Symposium, explosives expert Ben Barrett classified “a mass explosion that affects almost the entire load instantaneously” as Division 1.1, and that’s where we’d place 2020.
Class 2 Gases
The dominant story of 2020 has been, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which is transmitted mostly through exhaled vapor. So you could absolutely classify 2020 as a Class 2 gas—maybe an inhalation hazard.
Class 3 Flammable Liquids
You’ve seen this in the movies: A spreading pool of spilled gasoline threatens to ignite everything it touches, and all it takes is a spark to set it off. The year 2020 spread over the entire world, and our plans for just about everything—from your cousin’s wedding to the Tokyo Olympics—went up in flames. So yeah, 2020 is a Class 3 Flammable Liquid, too.
Class 4 Flammable Solids
Many people have called 2020 a dumpster fire. That’s a Class 4 Flammable Solid in our book.
Class 5 Oxidizers
An oxidizer is a material that enhances the combustion of other materials, so the year 2020 definitely looks like a Class 5 Oxidizer. After all, just about everything that could have been dangerous in the last 12 months was made even more explosive because it happened this year.
Class 6 Poisons
It just so happens there is a hazardous material numbered UN 2020—Chlorophenols, solid—and it’s a Class 6.1 Poison. It also just so happens that COVID-19 test samples (UN 3373) are Class 6.2 Poisons. So can there be any doubt that the year 2020 could also be classified as a Class 6 Poison?
Class 7 Radioactive Substances
The year 2020 can be, with a little imagination, classified as a Class 7 Radioactive Substance. Radiation is the spontaneous emitting of particles by disintegrating atomic nuclei. The year 2020 doesn’t literally emit particles, but it’s easy to see developments this year that can escape and damage future years as well.
Class 8 Corrosives
Class 9 Miscellaneous Materials
The year 2020 matches some properties of every hazmat class, but isn’t a perfect match with any of them—so it’s probably most accurate to classify it as a Class 9 Miscellaneous Material.
When all is said and done, however, it really doesn’t matter what label you attach to the box containing the year 2020. What matters is that you seal the box tightly and send it far, far away. Good riddance, 2020!
A serious note
Kidding aside, it’s been a challenging year throughout the Dangerous Goods supply chain. Thank you to all our partners and customers for your perseverance in keeping things moving.
Happy holidays, everyone—and let’s pull together for a great 2021!
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