Questions & More Informaton on MSDSs
Material Safety Data Sheets
A Material Safety Data Sheet, MSDS, is a detailed informational document prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a hazardous chemical which describes the physical and chemical properties of the product. Information included in a MSDS aids in the selection of safe products, helps employers and employees understand the potential health and physical hazards of a chemical and describes how to respond effectively to exposure situations. It should be noted that the health and safety guidance in the Material Safety Data Sheet often addresses the worst case situation which would be more relevant to a major industrial accident or tank car spill than to a laboratory. The Material Data Safety Sheet is not always helpful in selecting appropriate safeguards in the laboratory. If you have questions about handling or protecting yourself from a particular chemical contact Environmental Health and Safety or your supervisor.
Section I of the MSDS lists information identifying the manufacturer and the product.
- Manufacturer's name, address and telephone number
- Number to call in case of emergency involving product
- Chemical name and synonyms
- Trade name and synonyms
- Chemical family and formula
- CAS# (Chemical Abstract Service) for pure materials
Section II describes the various hazardous ingredients contained in the product, the percentages, and exposure limits when appropriate. All hazardous chemicals which comprise 1% or greater of the mixture will be identified. Carcinogens will be listed if their concentrations are 0.1% or greater. If a component is not listed, it has been judged to be non-hazardous or is considered proprietary information by the manufacturer. The types of components that might be listed include:
- Pigments, catalysts, vehicles, solvents, additives, others
- Base metals, alloys, metallic coatings, fillers, hazardous mixtures of other liquids,
solids or gases
Section III describes the physical properties of the material.
- Boiling point - Specific gravity
- Vapor pressure - Percent volatile
- Vapor density - Evaporation rate
- Solubility in water - Appearance and odor
Section IV describes the fire and explosion hazard data for the material. Based on the flash point and other fire and explosion data, the appropriate extinguishing agent for fires involving the material will be listed. Special procedures may also be listed.
- Flash point
- Lower and upper explosive limits (UEL/LEL)
- Extinguishing agent - water, dry chemical, foam, halon, etc.
- Special fire fighting procedures
- Unusual fire and explosion hazards, toxic fumes
Section V describes the known health hazards associated with the material, applicable exposure limits and symptoms/health effects associated with overexposure. This information will help the user and medical personnel recognize if an overexposure has occurred.
- Threshold Limit Value
- Effects of overexposure: headache, nausea, narcosis, irritation, weakness, etc.
- Primary routes of exposure: inhalation, skin, ingestion
- Cancer or other special health hazards
- Emergency and first aid procedures for ingestion, inhalation and skin or eye contact
Section VI describes reactivity data; that is, the material's ability to react and release energy or heat under certain conditions or when it comes in contact with certain substances.
- Stability: stable; unstable; conditions to avoid
- Incompatibility: materials to avoid
- Hazardous decomposition products
- Hazardous polymerizations: conditions to avoid
Section VII gives instructions for the steps to be taken in case of an accidental release or spill. The steps normally include information on containment, evacuation procedures and waste disposal as appropriate. The statements on the Material Safety Data Sheet are very general; more specific information is often available from your supervisor or EH&S
- Steps to be taken in case material is released or spilled
- Waste disposal methods
Section VIII describes the protective equipment for the individual who might have to work with the substance. This section normally describes worst case conditions; therefore, the extent to which personal protective equipment is required is task dependent. .
- Respiratory equipment: dust mask; chemical cartridge respirator; self-contained
- Ventilation: local; general; special
- Protective gloves: type; composition
- Eye protection: goggles; face shield
- Other protective equipment
Section IX describes handling and storage procedures to be taken with the material. Information may include statements, such as: keep container closed; store in a cool, dry, well ventilated area; keep refrigerated (caution: flammable solvents require a "flammable storage refrigerator"); avoid exposure to sunlight; etc.
Section X describes any special precautions or miscellaneous information regarding the material.
Manufacturers may withhold certain information as proprietary (such as hazardous ingredients) on a Material Safety Data Sheet if the information is considered a trade secret. NMSU as a user has a legal right to obtain this information from the manufacturer to evaluate the potential health risk if potential overexposure or adverse health effects are suspected.