What are SDSs?


Safety Data Sheets; also called SDS 

Until recently, SDS’s were historically referred to as MSDS’s (Material Safety Data Sheets), but in an effort to provide consistency in content and develop universally accepted hazard communications across the world, the Global Harmonization System (GHS) was implemented and the name was shortened to SDS (Safety Data Sheet). Now everyone uses the same set of hazard communication symbols worldwide and hazards can be universally recognized regardless of a product’s country of origin. SDSs are available for every chemical, and for every product manufactured around the world.  
So what exactly is an SDS? The primary purpose of a Safety Data Sheet is to be a hazard communication tool, a safety data sheet.  It is supposed to tell you what is hazardous about a chemical or a product.  How can it hurt you, how much of it does it take to hurt you, and in what way can it hurt you.  Will it harm the environment?  What do fire fighters and other first responders need to know about this “stuff”.  The reason this is important to understand is that I get questions from time to time asking why SDSs are “missing” information.  Why don’t SDSs list everything about a chemical or product? 
An SDS is not a Product Information Sheet.  An SDS is not a Technical Data Sheet. It is not meant to provide a product’s exact chemical formulation as this information is protected and in most cases proprietary to the supplier or manufacturer. This is why not every ingredient or component in a product is listed in Section 3, “Composition / Information on Ingredients”.  This is also why what is listed in Section 3 may not add up to 100%.  The components that need to be listed in Section 3 are only the ones that contribute to the hazard profile of the product.
This is also why an SDS does not tell you how the product is used, and where the product is used and on what soils and substrates or how to titrate a bath.  Only the information that tells you what is hazardous is included.
So whenever you look at an SDS always keep in mind that it is not meant to be an all-encompassing source of information for any specific product. Its purpose is to tell you what is hazardous about that chemical or product. To find additional information such as recommended product use, you may need to reach out to the supplier and request a Product Info Sheet or Technical Data Sheet.