MSDS – Material Safety Data Sheets – What ingredients are in a product?
Posted by Norman Fong
Do you wonder what is in that detergent or cleaning product? How green is it really? What do I do if it gets on my skin?
We have often cited Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS in our analysis of cleaning and construction products. What are they?
What is a MSDS
They are occupational safety and health documents used to describe a products ingredients, what they are, are they hazardous, how to store them, reactivity, storage, disposal, toxicity, health affects, what should be done if there is an accident, regulatory issues, etc. Vendors have to undertake manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal of hazardous materials and chemicals to complete these documents. There are even MSDS docs for things like Mustard gas, VX Nerve gas!
OSHA and the EPA set up regulations that require MSDS documents on certain products. Harmful substances used in the workplace are required to have these documents.
Related versions of documents are safety data sheet (SDS), or product safety data sheet (PSDS).
Where can I find MSDS documents
When checking out the greenness of a product, be sure to look for its MSDS document and READ it. Email or call the company and ask for an MSDS document.
Green Household Products
Many people are learning to use MSDS documents to understand how toxic a product is. We have several blog posts with lists of Greener alternatives household products.
- Green Summer Preparation Tips and Season Home Preparation Tips
- What is a Natural Cleaner or Natural Home Care Product?
- Costco Kirkland Signature Eco Friendly Cleaners
- Ortho Home Defense MAX Green alternatives – Roundup Herbicide Alternatives
Household Product Ingredients
SC Johnson, makers of Pledge and Windex has a new site that lists ingredients in their products. I noticed that the website contains most of their products, including the Windex products shown on the home page of the site. You no longer have to dig for MSDS documents. Clearly the green oriented brands like Seventh Generation, Method, and the like are starting to affect the mainstream brands.
“Through our Greenlist™ process, each potential ingredient receives a rating from 3 to 0. An ingredient with a 3 rating is considered “Best,” 2 is “Better,” 1 is “Acceptable” and 0-rated materials are used only on a limited, approved basis when there is not a viable alternative. Whenever possible, we work toward replacing these 0-rated materials with those that have a preferable environmental or health profile.”
A consumer who sued cited paying about 50% more and not getting a product that was very green.
This article describes the efforts and covers the controversy behind some chemicals like monoethanolamine in Mr Clean and Formula 409. 2-butoxyethanol in Simple Green is another chemical that I would just avoid.
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