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March 2006

Material Safety Data Sheets

What are Material Safety Data Sheets?
They are the first place to look for safety information on the chemicals you use at work or home. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is designed to provide both workers and emergency personnel with the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substance. MSDS's include information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment and spill/leak procedures. These are of particular use if a spill or other accident occurs.
Who are MSDS's for?
  • Employees who may be occupationally exposed to a hazard at work.
  • Employers who need to know the proper methods for storage, etc.
  • Emergency responders such as fire fighters, hazardous material crews, emergency medical technicians and emergency room personnel.
The Household Products Database by the U.S. National Library of Medicine is a terrific resource for consumers to educate themselves on the hazards of consumer products.
When do I need an MSDS?
Everyone must have access during their work shift to the MSDS's for the hazardous chemicals they use. There can be a binder in the work area with all the MSDS's. Environmental Health and Safety also maintains a web database of MSDS's (asa-msds.campus.stonybrook.edu). It's also important to have paper copies available to take to the Emergency Department in case of an accident involving the chemical.
Are there any tutorials that explain how to read an MSDS?
Check out these websites on how to read and understand an MSDS:
Where can I get MSDS's?
There are several places you can get them:
  • Your laboratory or workplace should have a collection of MSDS that came with the hazardous chemicals you have ordered (Don't throw them away!).
  • Go to the Stony Brook University MSDS website.
  • Contact the Environmental Health & Safety office at (631) 632-6410.
  • You can get them from the distributor that sold you the material.
  • Most manufacturer's have their MSDS's on their website. A handy list of sites can be found at Where to Find MSDS's.

MSDS Fact:

As of March 1st, 2006, the Stony Brook University MSDS Pro web service has 8,771 products with 3,821 chemicals from 777 manufacturers.

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