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SDS Defined

What are Safety Data Sheets?

  1. They contain information on the potential health effects of exposure and how to work safely with a chemical or product
  2. An SDS is required for chemicals used in industrial and institutional settings only.
  3. An SDS is supplied by the companies that make the chemicals or products
  4. They are legally required under WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System)
  5. Whether an SDS exists for a consumer product depends on a few factors, such as whether the product is used in industrial/institutional settings, the quantities in which it is packaged (larger quantities indicate commercial use) and whether handling and storage of the product brings workers into contact with it.
  6. SDS are not required for consumer products used in workplaces
  7. Information is often limited by how much testing has been done on a particular chemical
  8. SDS are frequently incomplete and almost always difficult to understand (particularly to the average consumer). They are not geared toward the consumer.

Often it is not in the economic interests of companies to disclose what is in their products. However, in California, Proposition 65, passed in 1986, says that if companies expose consumers to chemicals which pose a significant risk of cancer or reproductive harm, that they must provide consumers with a clear and reasonable warning.

As a result, several companies removed some ingredients from some of their products. The companies had argued that passage of the proposal would create economic problems and close down some companies. That hasn’t happened — and the Proposition is largely considered a success.

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Reporter: Wendy Mesley; Producer: Gaelyne Leslie; Researcher: Louisa Jaslow
From CBC News