MSDS Inaccuracy

150 Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) were evaluated for accuracy and completeness in several areas of information including:

1) chemical identification of hazardous ingredients;

2) reported health effects;

3) suggested first aid procedures;

4) recommended personal protective equipment; and

5) exposure level regulations and guidelines. 

The MSDSs were studied by an occupational health physician and an industrial hygienist.  The following results were published in Volume 56 of the American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal and included:

    •    83% of the MSDSs provided identifiable chemical names for all listed ingredients.

Of these identifiable MSDSs:

    •    37% had correct health hazards information.
    •    47% had incorrect health hazards information.
    •    16% partially accurate health hazards information.

The greatest problems in the health hazards section existed with chronic hazards evaluation.

    •    76% provided accurate first-aid information.
    •    8% provided inaccurate first-aid information.
    •    47% accurately identified adequate personal protective equipment.
    •    22% inaccurately identified personal protective equipment.
    •    47% listed all the relevant and correct ACGIH Threshold

Limit Values (TLVs) and/or OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).

    •    16% either didn't list the TLVs or PELS when they existed, or listed incorrect values for these.

Needless to say, the results if this study by Kolp, Williams, and Burtan are both alarming, and also not surprising.  Accuracy of the information that is provided on Material Safety Data Sheet is still a big problem.  The authors state that "Based on the foregoing findings for specific informational areas, only 11% of the MSDS were found to be accurate in all four informational areas of health effects, first aid, PPE, and exposure limits."   At Center for Safety in the Arts, we have unfortunately seen material safety data sheets that are both unreadable and not informative.


Art Hazard News, Volume 18,  No. 3, 1995

This article was originally printed for Art Hazard News, © copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1995. It appears on nontoxicprint courtesy of the Health in the Arts Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, who have curated a collection of these articles from their archive which are still relevant to artists today.