Material Safety Data Sheets – Do You Need Them?
Ellen Phillips, Extension Educator - Crop Systems, Countryside,
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
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.