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Preventing Chemical Accidents:  Understanding MSDS’s & Assessing Chemical Hazards

Summary: Assessing Chemical Hazards & Understanding MSDS’s

1.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to comply with the Hazard Communication Standard (HAZCOM).  It requires employers to inform employees about the chemical hazards they are exposed to on the job.  Plants using highly hazardous chemicals are also required to train employees about chemical safety under OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard.

2.  There are four basic ways that chemicals can enter your body:

•  Direct contact - on the skin or eyes

•  Absorption - through the skin

•  Ingestion - through the mouth with food

•  Inhalation - through the lungs

3.  You can’t rely on your sense of smell to protect you from exposure to toxic chemicals.

4.  After ingestion, inhalation or skin contact, toxic chemicals as well as their by-products affect the body.  For most toxic substances to cause harm there needs to be a sufficient “dose” given. The higher the concentration, the larger the dose.  The longer the exposure, the larger the dose.

5.  There are two different types of effects that result from toxic exposure.  They are acute and chronic.  “Acute” means that health effects are felt at the time of exposure or shortly after, or result from a short-term, highly concentrated exposure.  “Chronic” is a word that means the ill effects will not be seen for some time after exposure.  

6.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are over 100,000 chemicals used in commerce today.  Unfortunately, we produce chemicals first and ask questions later.  Each year, 2,000 new chemicals are introduced in commerce.  NTP is only able to evaluate 10 - 20 chemicals each year.

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