From: Kirk Hunter <kirk.p.hunter**At_Symbol_Here**GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] "Read the SDS"
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2018 10:18:49 -0500
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Message-ID: 5ace2759.1c69fb81.893c.44e7**At_Symbol_Here**

Greetings All,




The document you suggest already exists. You can download it here:


Even though these documents do not explicitly explain how to interpret an SDS, they will help provide insights to interpreting information in an SDS. The Guidelines are organized on the RAMP concept with specific learning objectives. These guidelines are a starting place and can be adapted by faculty/staff for the appropriate academic level.


Kirk Hunter

Co-Chair - CCS Task Force for Safety Education Guidelines



Sent from Mail for Windows 10


From: Denise Beautreau
Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2018 9:53 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] "Read the SDS"



I share your sentiments. Simply teaching the students in teaching labs how to read the SDS will not work. It is hard enough to get them to do simple experiments right, adding a document that even seasoned scientist still aren't able to comprehend will dare I say add to the issue, not resolve. There should be some governing body or group established to develop a guide of student safety guidelines and have a component that addresses SDSs in a way that meets students at their learning and comprehension level as well as can be applied to students in various levels of courses-introductory, organic, engineering, etc. 


There is also the question of what exactly are we expecting the students to do with this information? From a teaching lab stand point, most important information regarding reagents that may pose a health risk is always given to the students as part of the lab handout or pre-lab briefing. In my experience, when an incident occurs, it is mostly the instructor's and/or teaching assistants that take care of clean up, first aid, etc. Maybe the starting point is to educate the teaching staff or PIs that the students work with first and then move on to the students. I know many faculty members and graduate students who have no idea what an SDS is and what information it provides, much less how to read or use it. 





On Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 8:59 AM, Daniel Kuespert <dankuespert**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:

Perhaps what is needed is a "SDS"-lite specifically for use with teaching labs, calling out the relevant portions of the SDS, adding additional cautions suitable to the audience (like "don't stick your nose in a bottle and inhale deeply to determine if it's ether-I actually saw someone do that once!). 


The SDS simply tries to be too many things to too many people. I have one from PPG for "100% water" that seriously advises that if you get any on you, you should rinse it for 15 minutes in running water! I have another one for sucrose that calls for full Level A containment suits to clean up a sugar spill, which might actually make sense at a transport accident where there's sugar dust everywhere, but not for general lab use. (Actually, firefighting turnout gear would be more appropriate for the transport incident, since the main risk would be a dust explosion.) Seeing even one of those stupid types of SDS notations will turn a student off to the SDS as a reasonable source of information. 


Additionally, SDSs sometimes omit information essential to laboratory use of a chemical. The notation "use appropriate gloves" is particularly maddening to me when I read it, although I do get that each individual glove model has different properties, and even the same material may not resist a chemical in the same manner. I've also seen SDSs (from a major lab chemical manufacturer) that omitted the fact that Pd/C hydrogenation catalyst is spontaneously flammable if you start to let it dry out, particularly when used.


So perhaps we need, as a profession, to starting thinking about "what information do students need in lab" (and "in senior design courses" for chemical engineers), and establish some standards for what should be covered in such a chemical information document. The SDS is not serving us well. I'm not sure training on "how to read a SDS" really solves the above problems.



Dan Kuespert


On Apr 11, 2018, at 08:44, Mary Beth Mulcahy <mulcahy.marybeth**At_Symbol_Here**GMAIL.COM> wrote:


[M]SDSs have piqued my interest since I took my first HAZWOPER course. I remember wondering during that course how I managed to get a PhD in chemistry without ever learning how to read an MSDS--I didn't know what the NFPA diamond was or what IDLH stood for. So, my question to all of you in the classroom, how do you teach your students to read/interpret an SDS?

This morning I looked up the SDS for NaCl and H2SO4. Looking at the two of them side-by-side, I think even a novice could clearly differentiate that sulfuric acid is more hazardous than table salt based on the SDSs. If though the novice did not have the SDSs to compare and you took the name off of the SDS, I wonder how a novice would interpret the hazards of table salt. For example, the SDS for NaCl that I am looking for exposure guidelines states "This product does not contain any hazardous materials with occupational exposure limits established by the region specific regulatory bodies," and then under Other International Regulations states "Mexico Grade-Severe risk, Grade 4." How does a novice interpret that? Do you teach your students the limitations of regulatory-based exposure limits? Do you teach them about Mexico Grades? Do you focus on the NFPA diamond?

I would hope that after reading the SDS for table salt that a novice woudl feel comfortable using the chemical, but I'm not sure they would if you removed the name of the chemical from it. Anyone out there ever handed out a sodium chloride SDS in an intro chem class (with the name of the chemical removed) and asked the students if they would feel comfortable using it?

Mary Beth Mulcahy


--- For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here** Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas


--- For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here** Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas



Denise Beautreau

General Chemistry Laboratory Manager

Lehigh University 

Department of Chemistry

Seeley G. Mudd Building

6 E Packer Ave

Bethlehem, PA 18015

Phone: 610-758-1585

--- For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here** Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas


Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.