Extension Ag Update
November/December 2003
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Material Safety Data Sheets – Do You Need Them?


Ellen Phillips, Extension Educator - Crop Systems, Countryside, 708-352-0109, ephillps@uiuc.edu

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are designed to provide workers and emergency personnel with detailed information on safely handling and using any chemical, including pesticide or fertilizer products. These sheets provide a wealth of information beyond the basic information found on the products label.

MSDS begin with information that is also usually provided on the label such as the chemical name, trade names, and registration numbers. Other information provided in the MSDS includes the composition of mixtures section that lists all hazardous materials over one percent and all carcinogens over 0.1 percent in the product.

MSDS provides information that is not typically on a label such as the physical/chemical characteristics including the boiling or melting points, specific gravity, solubility in water, evaporation rate, appearance and odor

Important information on the products toxicity is also included. The Health Effects sections shares information about potential harm to specific body organs or systems by overexposure. The Health Hazard Data section discusses research done to set the LD50 (lethal dose 50), which is the lethal single dose of the product that is expected to kill 50 percent of a test animal population. The First Aid section provides specific on-site treatment of victims of poisoning and has special notes to the physician.

MSDS also provide valuable information to emergency personnel on the potential hazards of this product. The Fire And Explosion Hazard Data section includes items such as the Flashpoint, which is the temperature at which the product vapor ignites. The Auto Ignition Temperature is the temperature where it will ignite spontaneously in the air. The products Flammability Limits is the lower and upper concentrations in air where the product cannot be ignited. The section on Recommended Extinguishing Media and Unusual Fire and Explosion Hazards provide helpful hints on the best way to treat emergencies involving this product. The Handling Precautions section gives information on safe handling of this product given. Protective equipment is also discussed.

Other useful information can be found in the Environmental/Disposal Information section that describes the proper way to dispose of containers and steps to take should there be a spill or leak. Information is also provided on storage requirements of the product. The last section is on references and lists the sources of information in the sheet, should you want even more information about this product.

How do you get a MSDS? Two laws, The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Worker Right-to-Know Law and SARA Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Law, require that MSDS be provided upon request to anyone purchasing of pesticides and fertilizer products. MSDS are available from the manufacturer for each pesticide and fertilizer product sold and should be available to the buyer when purchasing the product.

One section on the MSDS to check annually is the Date Prepared section that has date the MSDS was prepared or the latest update. Companies are not required to provide the updated sheets to you, so review your MSDS sheets annually and request updated sheets. In this age of electronics, MSDS comes in many forms. You can purchase electronic formats including CD-ROM subscriptions, fax on demand services (they will fax any MSDS you request) and internet-based suppliers. The easiest source for a MSDS is the dealer you purchase your pesticide or fertilizer product from. Keep the MSDS in a location where you can quickly get to them should you need information beyond what is on the label.