Preventing Chemical Accidents: Understanding MSDS’s & Assessing Chemical Hazards
Unfortunately, a lot of MSDSs in circulation do not contain complete and accurate health hazard information. They often leave out chronic health information, such as whether a chemical causes cancer or birth defects and most have not been studied for these effects. In fact, Environmental Defense Fund research indicates that currently even the most basic toxicity testing results cannot be found in the public record for nearly 75% of the top-volume chemicals in commercial use.
Section VII: Precautions for Safe Handling and Use
This section should give you information to plan for emergencies (e.g., type of emergency respirators to have on hand, exit routes, and ways to deal with small spills). It also provides procedures for proper waste disposal and precautions for storage and handling. This section is often incomplete for emergency planning purposes.
Section VIII: Control Measures
This section provides information on appropriate respirators, protective clothing, ventilation, and safe work practices. The information usually represents the bare minimum in protection and tends to emphasize protective gear and respirators over engineering controls that could eliminate the problem at the source of exposure.
CHECKING THE ACCURACY OF MSDSs
What can be done if you suspect that the MSDS that you received is not accurate or complete?
• Ask your employer: If an MSDS is not accurate, your employer is responsible for obtaining an accurate, complete MSDS. Ask your employer to request a more accurate MSDS from the supplier or manufacturer.
• Contact the manufacturer: You or your union can contact the manufacturer and ask for a more accurate MSDS. Some MSDSs are also available online.
• Contact the NJ Dept. of Health: The Right to Know Program can provide Hazardous Substance Factsheets that have more complete information on specific ingredients listed on MSDSs. (www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/rtkweb/ or phone: 609-984-2202).
Source: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), How to Read a