Chemistry – Material Safety Data Sheets vs. Technical Data

By law, there must be a Material Safety Data Sheet for any material used in any process.  The law was instituted, basically, because workers were unknowingly coming in contact with materials that were dangerous not only from a physical standpoint (fire, reactivity, explosivity, etc.) but to human health and well-being as well.  Many of today’s chemical formulations are so complex that without such a vehicle to distribute information the risk would be potentially huge.  Every employer is required to maintain a file of MSDS’s for every material used or stored in a facility.  This file MUST be available to all employees in the facility.  Anyone involved with human resources will be fully versed in the proper procedure.

Material Safety Data Sheets concentrate on data related to safety of use and safety to the environment as well as people and is required to be structured to a specific format.  For purposes of illustration, the first page of a typical MSDS for de-ionized water is posted below.  There are six additional pages!

Material Safety Data Sheets focus primarily on SAFETY.  In general they provide little additional information on the product or its use and have limited use (if any) for the person designing a cleaning process.  A typically more valuable vehicle for information is the product data, “brand,” or technical data sheet.  In spite of the fact that these documents frequently include information that falls strictly in the realm of advertising, they also contain information on applications of the product and guidance on its use including, for example, the proper dilution range, temperature and several pieces of information useful to the process engineer.  Similar information may often be found on the label of the product if it is available.

As an illustration, below are the MSDS and the “Product Sheet” for a chemistry commonly used for ultrasonic cleaning and other applications.  I invite you to compare the information they provide.

Material Safety Data Sheet

Technical Data Sheet

 Note – These documents are used for illustration purposes.  The blog has no affiliation with Brulin.

Material Safety Data Sheets, although absolutely necessary for proper and standardized communication of safety information, can also cause undo alarm if not interpreted properly.  The material safety data sheets for several products we all have our homes can be pretty scary to someone not accustomed to reading these documents!  In doing research for this blog, I happened to check out a couple on line and found the ones for vinegar and a popular brand of hot sauce to be very interesting.  Vinegar, for example, is listed as “not for human consumption” and as an “extreme eye irritant!”

I am not suggesting by any means that one should ignore the warnings of a Material Safety Data Sheet.  I do, however, recommend that the information they contain should be carefully interpreted and not always be taken at full face value.  There are resources on line and otherwise, that can help in one’s understanding of MSDS documents.  Just Google “reading and understanding an MSDS.”

–  FJF  –

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