An MSDS sheet is created by the manufacturer or supplier of a material or chemical product to educate customers about its proper usage. A Material Safety Data Sheet provides summarized information about a material or chemical product’s properties, how to use it carefully, possible hazards, the protocol in case of emergency, and all the probable uses for the material.
An MSDS is organized into different sections with distinct headings, although the sections and specific information, as well as the order in which the information is delivered, might differ from one supplier to the next.
The major sections on an MSDS are: Product and Company Identification, Hazards Identification, Composition, Information on Ingredients, First Aid Measures, Fire Fighting Measures, Accidental Release Measures, Handling and Storage, Exposure Controls, Personal Protection, Physical and Chemical Properties, Stability and Reactivity, Toxicological Information, Ecological Information, Disposal Considerations, Transport Information, Regulatory Information. Some sections are further elucidated through subsections.
NDA MSDS’ can be found under the MSDA & COA Documents tab of the Product page on the website. The name of the product, sometimes referred to as the product “identifier” is on both the MSDS and the WHMIS label and should match the name on the material label. To find the correct MSDS sheet for the material, it is imperative to search for it based on the actual product name rather than any short form name that might be used for the product. The MSDS and label might have additional identifying information such as a product code.
This section of an MSDS contains information about different ways in which one could be exposed to the material and the potentially harmful effects of the exposure. The effect of the material on animals, if they have been used for experimentation purposes, might be mentioned if they are relevant to human health.
Health effects in this section can be considered general, as the effects will not always be the same for everyone that comes in contact with each potentially hazardous material. The degree of the health effects will be determined by the way in which a material is handled and the purpose for which it is used.
MSDSs from different suppliers will have varying information; some might provide the reasonably anticipated potential effects from the normal use of the product as well as how to handle spills and emergencies, while other MSDSs could provide further details about how to handle worst case scenarios and possible health effects that emerge from exposure to any amount of the substance through any form of contact (absorption, inhalation, etc). One must not assume that a product is more or less hazardous than another based on information outlined in this section.
This section mentions the physical characteristics of the material such as color, odor, physical stage (gas, liquid, or solid), evaporation rate, boiling point, freezing point, and other details. It addresses noteworthy concerns such as flammability, reactivity, and potential health and environmental hazards.
This subsection might include information about the regulatory status of the material under the Controlled Products Regulations (WHMIS) and/or the US Hazard Communication Standard. Simply put, regulations will likely mention the goals of the organizations that are supplying and using this material and their efforts to ensure that the product conforms with all rules, policies, standards, laws, and regulations. References to health, safety, and environmental laws and regulations may be provided here.
IRRITANCY OF PRODUCT
This section will indicate any potential irritation caused by exposure to this material through the skin or eye contact or through the respiratory tract. If experimental animals were used to test irritancy, that will also be mentioned here.
SENSITIZATION TO PRODUCT
Sensitization to a product happens when an allergic reaction to a chemical is developed over a period of time. With initial exposure, the sensitivity might be mild and may increase in severity with ensuing instances of exposure. In due course, even brief exposures to small amounts of the substance may cause extreme reactions. The two types of sensitization include skin and respiratory. Symptoms of skin sensitization include swelling, redness, blistering, itching, and pain. Symptoms of respiratory sensitization include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, or a tightness in the chest.
A carcinogen is any cancer-causing substance. Carcinogenic materials will be identified as such by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). The lists of carcinogens include those that are harmful to both humans and animals. If the evidence for a listed chemical is limited, it may be listed as having the potential to be carcinogenic.
This section will address any potential effects on the reproductive capacity of adult males or females, including consequences such as reduction in fertility and changes to menstrual cycles.
TERATOGENICITY AND EMBRYOTOXICITY
Teratogens are substances that may cause birth defects, and embryotoxins are those that may have toxic effects on an embryo that is evolving. It is important that pregnant women, in particular, minimize their exposure to materials with these properties.
The mutagenicity of a substance refers to its ability to cause mutations in cell DNA, which is what determines the distinguishing qualities and features that parents pass on to their children. It also determines how the body’s cells reproduce. A substance’s possible mutagenic effects may also be linked to its potential carcinogenic, teratogenic or reproductive hazards. Test results of a material’s mutagenicity might not necessarily be reliable or conclusive, due to the fact that the human body is able to eradicate mutagens and repair mutations; however, this information is included to direction attention to a potential health risk.
TOXICOLOGICALLY SYNERGISTIC PRODUCTS
Synergistic products are those that, when combined with certain other chemicals, may cause greater harm than they would if they were all used individually. The interaction of more than one chemical over the same period of time means the health effects of exposure are added together and made more severe.
POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS
This section provides information about the possible effects that the material can have on the environment such as on fish or wildlife as well as its potential to cause bioaccumulation or accumulation in the environment.
In this section, the product’s potentially hazardous chemical components, its by-products, and any impurities are mentioned along with the approximate percentages of each. Because chemicals can be referred to by several names, they are also assigned unique numbers by the Canadian and American Chemical Abstracts Services (CAS). These numbers are usually mentioned in this section as well. Sometimes the CAS number is mentioned in the “Product and Company Identification” section. If one or more of the components of the product is an approved trade secret, that information will be included in this section.
This section outlines the safety measures that are to be taken in the event of accidental exposure to the material. These steps are intended to help the user minimize both short-term and long-term injury. In some serious cases, first aid might be necessary for the prevention of death induced by exposure.
It is imperative that this information is understood before beginning to use the product, as there will be no time to read it during an emergency. Product users that are trained to give first aid should review the safety procedures regularly, but all users should be aware of the locations of all the first aid equipment such as kits and the facilities such as eyewash stations and safety showers.
If medical treatment is required and the MSDS is available, it should be taken to the emergency facility along with the victim. If it is not available, the product’s label or the labeled product container itself should be sent in order to inform the medical responders of what the material is made of and the suggested First Aid measures.
Any fire hazards and firefighting protocols are mentioned in this section, mostly for the benefit of firefighters and other emergency responders. This helps them select the best course of action to extinguish the fire, including selecting the appropriate extinguisher. The information in this section along with the sections on Handling and Storage and Stability and Reactivity will help determine the ideal location for the storage of a particular material. For example, flammable materials should be stored away from incompatible materials.
The information in this section is also largely beneficial to emergency responders, as it involves recommendations for cleaning up accidental spills or releases, sometimes suggesting materials that would best absorb the spill.
This section covers the general precautions for safely handling the material as well as any required equipment. The information in this section is largely intended for safety professionals and/or those responsible for designing handling and storage and facilities.
When developing these safety procedures, all possible hazards such as fire, reactivity, health and environmental hazards need to be taken into consideration. For example, flammable and combustible liquids can generate static electricity, so MSDS may suggest that the containers of these liquids be bonded and electrically grounded with special wires when dispensing of the contents.
The recommendations for ideal storage locations indicate important factors for materials such as the temperatures at which they should be stored. The sections on Firefighting Measures and Stability and Reactivity would also support these safety protocols.
Information provided in this section is implemented in safety procedures and practices. Because MSDS are developed with all reasonably estimated uses in mind and because they address a wide range of uses, the information might not always apply to each individual situation. The importance and relevance of the information to a particular workplace or specific job can be assessed with the help of a health and safety professional.
If exposure guidelines are available for each component, they are provided in this section. Sometimes, the exposure limits such as Threshold Limit Values, Ventilation, Respiratory Protection, and Protective Clothing may be provided by Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR) or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and at other times manufacturers may provide their own parameters for exposure to their products.
The legal exposure limits in a particular jurisdiction, whether provincial, territorial or federal, may differ from what is listed on the MSDS. Exposure limits are used as standards by health and safety professionals when conducting air sampling.
Engineering control systems are intended to automatically reduce a potential hazard by regulating it at its source, by removing it from the general area, or by creating a permanent barrier between the user and the potentially hazardous material. Engineering control systems include local exhaust ventilation, general ventilation, or isolation or enclosure. These systems are preferred over the use of personal protective equipment. It is always ideal to substitute a hazard for a less hazardous material or less hazardous process when one is readily available.
The engineering control systems recommended for a particular job must be checked and maintained correctly to ensure that they are functioning effectively when used in conjunction with the material. If the process or materials change, the controls may also have to be changed.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
This section provides general guidance on the need for personal protective equipment as well as suggesting the ideal selection. Examples of PPE include: gloves, foot and eye protection, ear plugs, hard hats, respirators, and full body suits.
Eye protection might be required for a particular job depending on the materials being handled. They include safety glasses, chemical safety goggles, a face shield or sometimes a combination of these.
MSDS should mention the most protective equipment and materials that guard skin against the harmful effects of the product being used, as there is no single material that will provide a definitive barrier against all chemicals. Typically, skin protection items include masks, aprons, gloves, full body suits, and boots. Depending on the required temperature conditions, skin protection might necessitate the use of materials that are not easily ripped. Regardless of the product temperature, it is imperative that protective gear is used and stored properly and replaced when needed.
MSDSs might merely advise the use of resistant equipment, in which case more detailed information may be obtained from the product supplier or manufacturer of either the product or the protective clothing.
Respiratory protective equipment comes in various types; some may protect against only some chemicals and offer little to no protection against others. A complete set of guidelines for respiratory protection will not normally be on MSDSs. To obtain the appropriate type of respirator for a workplace, an assessment of the workplace and all its chemicals, including their airborne concentrations and forms, must be conducted by a qualified person as part of a respiratory protection program. The program will include respirator selection, fit testing, training, and maintenance.
GENERAL HYGIENE CONSIDERATIONS
This subsection suggests good hygiene practices that are not specific to any material, for example: “Wash thoroughly after handling and before eating or drinking.
The material’s physical description, which includes its physical state and appearance, should match the description on the MSDS. If the information on both does not match, the MSDS is not the correct one for the product. If the material is old or has disintegrated, the MSDS may not apply to it any longer and further advice should be sought for how to handle the product.
Other information provided in this section is used by technical specialists to help determine the conditions under which the material may be harmful. It is also used to support the development of safety measures that are work site-specific, including procedures for the regulation of exposure, storage, handling, firefighting, and accidental spillage.
Any conditions under which the material becomes unstable or under which it can react dangerously will be mentioned in this section. This information will inform the material’s users of safe storage and handling procedures. It will also help them become aware of any incompatible materials that they should avoid storing or mixing together, as violent reactions or even explosions may occur if they are mixed.
Environmental conditions such as exposure to heat, sunlight or the simple aging of a chemical could cause it to disintegrate. When this happens, chemicals can potentially cause fires, explosions, or the creation of new chemicals that pose different threats.
When chemicals undergo polymerization, a chain reaction process during which two or more similar molecules combine to make bigger molecules, they can be hazardous. This is because the reaction may produce heat or enough pressure to become explosive and detonate the chemical container. Chemicals that are prone to decomposition or polymerization often contain stabilizers or inhibitors to reduce or prevent the chances of this hazardous reaction.
Due to the range of health effects caused by chemicals, toxicity tests may be required depending on the ways they will be used. It is difficult to compare the toxicity of one chemical to that of another because of their different toxic effects, so the same toxic potency and intensity must be measured and compared across several different chemicals. This can be done through lethality testing, which measures the amount of the chemical that would cause death. This type of testing is also called “quantal,” as it measures a “quanta” or a particular amount of the chemical and whether or not an effect “occurs.”
This section of an MSDS informs the material user of the toxicity of either the ingredients or the entire product. The language used may be technical and challenging to interpret; however, a well-informed health and safety professional may assist with deciphering.
This section may also contain information on the following topics: Effects of Acute Exposure to Product, Effects of Chronic Exposure to Product, Irritancy of Product, Sensitization to Product, Carcinogenicity, Reproductive Toxicity, Teratogenicity and Embryotoxicity, Mutagenicity and Toxicologically Synergistic Products.
Under WHMIS, it is not mandatory to include this information on an MSDS, but when included it explains the impact of the chemical when it is released into the environment. This includes its toxicity to fish, birds, plants and microorganisms. The relevance of this information mainly pertains to workplace staff and professionals that evaluate the material’s use, disposal, and spill control.
This section includes information on general waste disposal and is also mostly relevant to environmental professionals. The steps and precautions for proper disposal of hazardous waste and the federal, provincial, local regulations will not be included here, as the appropriate local authorities must be contacted for this information.
This section pertains to the individuals that ship the material and it provides information about required precautions for shipping. Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) classification may be included along with the Product Identification Number (PIN), if the product meets the TDG criteria.
Information in this section pertains largely to personnel in charge of regulatory compliance. It may include the product’s regulatory status, beneficial references to pertinent health, safety and environmental laws and regulations, and the product’s WHMIS classification.