ToxicBlog#2 – Toxicology and the Safety Data Sheet

In my previous ToxicBlog#1 post, I talked about how a simple knowledge of physicochemical properties can go a long way when writing safety data sheets (SDS).

Well, the same can also be said of toxicology and this is the subject of this ToxicBlog#2 post.


How a basic knowledge of toxicology can help improve our SDS

As we all know, from a human health perspective, a well written Safety Data Sheet (SDS) provides information on the intrinsic health hazards (corrosive, genotoxic, etc) of the chemical. This information is obtained from any relevant toxicological information we have available.

Furthermore, the SDS should provide information on,

  1. What to do to minimise the possibility of exposure occurring.
  2. What to do should chemical exposure occur.

Now, at the risk of stating the obvious, we cannot write anything about these points without understanding the ways in which the chemical can cause harm (i.e. the toxicology). However, from experience of reading countless SDS, I have noticed that the intrinsic health hazards are more often than not, reflected in other relevant sections …. which leads to an overall lack of consistency in the SDS.


Chemical corrosives

Let’s imagine for a moment that we have been asked to write a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for a substance which is classified as corrosive based on reliable toxicology data. How could we make use of this information other than for section 2 and 3 of the SDS?

Well, as I already mentioned, we know the hazard (it’s corrosive) and what we now need to do is consider,

  1. What to do to minimise the possibility of exposure occurring. In the SDS we would need to pay particular attention to sections  5,6,7 and 8 respectively and ensure that the corrosive properties are adequately reflected. It is also important to note that the recommendations we write in these respective SDS sections are likely to differ depending on both the type of hazard, but also the physical form (e.g. powder, liquid, vapour, etc).
  2. What to do should chemical exposure occur. This is where we would need to consider what appropriate first aid measures (section 4) should be followed for a corrosive liquid. Again, the recommendations we write in section 4 are also likely to differ depending on the intrinsic hazard and physical form of the chemical in question.

All of this may seem rather obvious, but you would be surprised by the number of SDS authors who do not do this.

As homework, look at any safety data sheet and ask yourself whether or not the author has adequately reflected the intrinsic hazardous nature of the substance/mixture across all other relevant sections of the safety data sheet. You could even look at one of your own SDS!


Upcoming SDS related webinars

‘Introduction to Writing Compliant (and useful) Safety Data Sheets’ – 19th February 2020. More information

‘Introduction to Toxicology, Ecotoxicology & Physicochemical Properties for Safety Data Sheets’ 25th February 2020.  More information

The focus of these webinars is to not only help understand the regulatory requirements when authoring SDS, but also to utilise the available information from key sections (i.e. toxicology, ecotoxicology & physicochemical properties) to help improve overall consistency.

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