MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEETS                       

Some MSDS's are more complete than others.  Do not assume everything you need to know is contained on the MSDS.  Therefore, also use other appropriate references to find out about a chemical's hazards.  YOUR PRIMARY SOURCE OF INFORMATION IS YOUR LABORATORY SUPERVISOR.  Your supervisor is responsible for providing training on all potential hazards in the laboratory.  You can also perform a literature search, use books, websites, call the manufacturer of the chemical or hazardous substance, talk to an experienced colleague, or call the EHRS Department.

The material safety data sheet (MSDS) is the hazard communication tool that provides details on all important aspects of chemical use, handling, and storage.  Review the appropriate Standard Operating Procedure, the MSDS and other appropriate resources when working with a chemical for the first time or when training staff.  The EHRS Department maintains MSDS's for all chemicals used at the University.  MSDS's can be obtained by calling X8843.  These are available in the Griffith Hall Central Stockroom and in each laboratory.  (Link to MSDS web sites from the EHRS site)

Be prepared for what can go wrong.

The OSHA Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires manufacturers to provide MSDS's at no cost.  Information is divided into ten sections.

Section I of the MSDS lists information identifying the manufacturer and the product.   It includes:

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manufacturer's name, address and telephone number
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number to call in case of emergency
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chemical name and synonyms
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trade name and synonyms
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chemical family and formula
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Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) number that is a unique identification number for chemical reagents
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Date of preparation

If your work requires an understanding of this chemical information, contact your supervisor or the EHRS Department.

Section II describes the various hazardous ingredient(s) contained in the product, the percentages of ingredient(s), and exposure limits when appropriate.  This will include all hazardous chemicals that comprise 1% or greater of the mixture.   Carcinogens must be listed if the concentrations are 0.1% or greater.

Section III describes the physical properties of the material.  Physical properties include:

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boiling point
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specific gravity
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vapor pressure
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percent volatile
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vapor density
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evaporation rate
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solubility in water
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appearance and odor

Section IV describes the fire and explosion hazard data for the material and other fire and explosion data.  The appropriate extinguishing agent for fires involving the material will be listed.  Special fire fighting procedures may also be listed.

Section V describes reactivity data:  that is, the material's ability to react and release energy or heat under special conditions or when it comes in contact with certain substances.

Section VI describes the known health hazard data for the material and exposure limits.   Symptoms or the health effects of an overexposure are listed.  This information will help the user and medical personnel recognize if an overexposure has occurred.

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threshold limit value (TLV) and permissible exposure limits (PEL)
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existing medical conditions that may be aggravated by exposure
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effects of overexposure (e.g., headache, nausea, narcosis, eye irritation, weakness, skin rashes, etc.)
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primary routes of exposure (i.e., inhalation, skin, ingestion)
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cancer or other special health hazards
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emergency and first aid procedures

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.  The statements on the MSDS are general. Therefore, additional information should be provided in the appropriate standard operating procedure or by the laboratory supervisor. Contact EHRS for additional information.

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.  Always review the appropriate Standard Operating Procedure.  Equipment may include:

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respiratory equipment
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ventilation
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protective gloves
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eye protection
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other protective equipment (i.e., special clothing)

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; avoid exposure to sunlight.

Section X describes any special precautions or miscellaneous information regarding the material.  In some cases, manufacturers may choose to withhold certain information on a MSDS provided the information is trade secret.   Regardless of the existence of trade secrets, the MSDS must still contain all relevant hazard, protection, and health information.

Some MSDS's may not contain all ten sections or the information may be in a slightly different order.  However, the basic information described above must be provided.   Do not assume if a section is left blank that there is no risk.


University of the Sciences in Philadelphia • 600 South Forty-third Street • Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495 • phone: 215-596-8800 • email: safety@usp.edu