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Common Safety Data Sheet Terms

Safety Data Sheet Terms


American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist is an organization of professional personnel in governmental agencies or educational institutions engaged in occupational safety and health program.

Acute Effect:

An adverse effect resulting from a single dose of, or exposure to short period of time, a substance with symptoms occurring very quickly.

Acute Toxicity:

Adverse effects resulting from a single dose of or exposure to a substance.


Liquid droplets or solid particles dispersed in air that are of fine enough size to remain dispersed for a period of time.


American Industrial Hygiene Association is recognized for its technical committee publications, its proactive role in governmental affairs, and for promoting the professional of industrial hygiene.

Air-Purifying Respirator:

A respirator that uses chemicals to remove specific gases and vapors from air or that uses a filter to remove particulate matter.

Allergic Reaction:

An abnormal physiological response to chemical or physical stimuli.


An chemical that causes total or partial loss of sensation.


A remedy to relieve, prevent or counteract the effects of a poison.

Aquatic Toxicity:

The adverse effects to marine life that result from being exposed to a toxic substance.


A vapor or gas that can cause unconsciousness or death by suffocation. Most are associated with a lack of sufficient oxygen to promote life.

Aspiration Hazard:

Danger of drawing material into the lungs leading to an inflammatory response.


Biological Exposure Indices is reference values for chemicals which may be identified in blood, urine or exhaled air intended to be used as guidelines for evaluation of potential health hazards.

Boiling Point:

A temperature at which a liquid turns to a vapor state at a given pressure. Flammable materials with low boiling points generally present special fire hazard.

"C" or Ceiling:

In terms of exposure concentrations, this is the exposure level that should never be exceeded even for a short period, for a substance.


A substance or agent capable of producing cancer in animals or humans.


The ability to produce cancer.


Relating to the heart and to the blood vessels or circulation


Chemical Abstract Services is an assigned number used to identify specific chemicals or mixtures.

Central Nervous System:

The brain and spinal cord. These organs supervise and coordinate the activity of the entire nervous system.


Code of Federal Regulations is a collection of the regulations that have been promulgated under United State Law.

Chronic Effect:

An adverse effect with symptoms that develop or recur very slowly, or over long periods of time.

Chronic Toxicity:

The adverse effects resulting from prolonged or repeat exposures to a substance, usually used as an indicator of relative toxicity for exposures over great lengths of time.


Capable of catching fire or burning. This term is often associated with 'flash point', which is a temperature at which a given material will generate sufficient vapors to promote combustion. Non-liquid substances such as wood and paper are classified as “ordinary combustibles” by National Fire Protection Association.



A figure used to define relative quantity of a particular material.


A substance that is capable of causing visible destruction and irreversible harm to human skin at the site of contact, or steel by contact. Many acids and bases are classified as corrosives.


Pertaining to the skin.


The breakdown of materials or substances into other substances or parts of compounds. Usually associated with heat or chemical reactions.


Relating to the skin.

Dermal Toxicity:

The adverse effects resulting from exposure of a material to the skin. Usually associated with lab animal tests.


Ratio of weight to volume of a material.


Inflammation of the skin.

Dilution Ventilation:

Air flow designed to dilute contaminants to acceptable levels.


Department of Transportation is a United States governmental agency responsible for promoting the safety transportation of hazardous materials by all modes (land, air and water).


Engineering Controls:

Systems that reduce potential hazards by isolating the worker from the hazard or by removing the hazard from the work environment.

Environmental Toxicity:

Information obtained as a result of conducting environmental testing designed to study the effects on aquatic and plant life.

Evaporation Rate:

The rate at which a particular material will vaporize when compared to the rate of vaporization of a known material. The evaporation rate can be useful in evaluating the health and fire hazards of a material.


A substance that causes a sudden, almost instantaneous release of pressure, gas and heat when subjected to a sudden shock, pressure, or high temperature.

Exposure Limits:

The concentration of a chemical in the workplace air to which most people can be exposed without experiencing harmful effects.

Extinguishing Media:

Fire extinguisher or extinguishing method appropriate for use on specific material.

Flammable Gas:

A gas that at ambient temperature and pressure forms a flammable mixture with air at a concentration of 13% by volume or less or a gas that at ambient temperature and pressure forms a range of flammable mixtures with air greater than 12% by volume, regardless of the lower limit.

Flammable Liquid:

Any liquid that has a flash point of 140 degrees F. or below.

Flammable Solid:

A solid, other than a blasting agent or explosive, that is liable to cause fire through friction, absorption of moisture, spontaneous chemical change, or retained heat from manufacturing or processing, or which can be ignited readily and when ignited, burns so vigorously and persistently as to create a serious hazard.

Flash Point:

The minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off a vapor in sufficient concentration to ignite when tested according to an approved method. Generally, the lower the flash point, the greater the danger of fire.


Very small solid particles that have condensed in the air resulting from the heating of a solid body.


A form of matter that is neither solid nor liquid. In its normal state (at room temperature and atmospheric pressure) it can expand indefinitely to fill a container completely. A gas can be changed to the liquid or solid state under the right temperature and pressure conditions.

General Exhaust:

A term used to define a system for exhausting or ventilating air from a general work area. Not as site specific as localized exhaust.

General Ventilation:

Air flow designed to dilute contaminants to acceptable levels.

Hazardous Chemical:

Any chemical which is either a physical or health hazard or both.

Hazardous Combustion Products:

Chemicals which may be formed when a material burns. These chemicals may be toxic, flammable or have other hazards.


International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluates information on the carcinogenicity of chemicals, groups of chemicals and chemicals associated with certain industrial processes.


Immediately dangerous to life and health.


Capable of being set a fire.


Materials which could cause dangerous reactions from direct contact with one another.


Taking a substance into the body through the mouth.


The breathing in of a substance in the form of a gas, liquid, vapor, dust, mist or fume.


A chemical added to another substance to prevent unwanted change from occurring.


A chemical which causes reversible inflammatory effects on the site of contact, however, is not considered a corrosive. Normally, irritants affect the eyes, skin, nose, mouth and respiratory tract.


Secretion and discharge of tears.


Lethal Concentration is the concentration of a substance which is sufficient to kill the tested animal, in lab animal tests.

LC 50:

Lethal Concentration is the concentration of a substance required to kill 50% of the group of animals tested, in lab animal tests.


Lethal Dose is concentration of a substance required to kill the lab animal used for the test with a specific material.

LD50 :

Lethal Dose is single dose concentration of a substance required to kill 50% of the lab animals tested.


Lower Explosive Limit is the lowest concentration, or percentage in air, of a vapor or gas, that will produce a flash or fire when an ignition source is present.

Local Exhaust:

The capture and removal of contaminated air directly at its source.

Melting Point:

The temperature at which a solid changes to a liquid.


A unit of measurement usually associated with concentrations of dusts, gases, or mists in air.


A substance or agent capable of altering the genetic material in a living cell.


A substance that causes injury to the kidneys.


National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends occupational exposure limits for various substances, and assists OSHA and MSHA in occupational safety and health investigations and research.

Non-Sparking Tools:

Tools made from beryllium-copper or aluminum-bronze greatly reduce the possibility of igniting dust, gases or flammable vapors.

Odor Threshold:

The lowest concentration of a substance in air that can be smelled.


Relating to the sense of smell.

Oral Toxicity:

A term used to denote the degree at which a substance will cause adverse health effects when taken through the mouth. Normally associated with lab animal tests.

Organic Peroxide:

Highly unstable compounds, sensitive to heat, friction, impact, and light, as well as to strong oxidizing and reducing agents. All organic peroxides are highly flammable.


A substance which yields oxygen readily to stimulate the combustion of an organic material.

Oxidizing Agent:

A chemical or substance which brings on oxidation reactions by providing the oxygen to promote oxidation.


Permissible Exposure Limit is legally enforced occupational exposure limit established by OSHA’s regulatory authority.

Physical Hazard:

Means a chemical.

PPM (Parts per Million):

A unit of measurement for the concentration of a vapor or gas in air, usually expressed as number of parts of vapor or gas per million parts of air by volume.

PPB (Parts per Billion):

Same as above, only expressed as number of parts per billion parts of air.


The process of forming a polymer by combining large numbers of chemical units or monomers into long chains. A hazardous polymerization is such a reaction that takes place at a rate that releases large amounts of energy that can cause fires or explosions or burst containers.


A type of chemical that will ignite spontaneously and burn when exposed to air.


A substance’s susceptibility to undergoing a chemical reaction or change that may result in dangerous side effects, such as explosion, burning, and corrosive or toxic emissions. The conditions that cause the reaction, such as heat, other chemicals, and dropping, will usually be specified as "conditions to avoid" on the SDS.

Reproductive Toxins:

Chemicals which affect the reproductive capabilities including chromosomal damage (mutations) and effects on fetuses (teratogenesis).

Respiratory Hazard:

A particular concentration of an airborne contaminant that, when it enters the body by way of the respiratory system or by being breathed into the lungs, results in some body function impairment.

Respiratory Protection:

Devices that will protect the wearer’s respiratory system from overexposure by inhalation to airborne contaminants.


Routes of Entry:

The means by which material gain access to the body, for example, inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact.


A substance which may cause no reaction in a person during initial exposures, but afterwards, further exposures will cause an allergic response to the substance.


A substance, commonly water, but in industry often an organic compound, which dissolves another substance.

Specific Gravity:

The weight of a material compared to the weight of an equal volume of water. Usually expresses a material's heaviness. A material with a specific gravity of greater than 1.0 will sink to the bottom of water, whereas a material with a specific gravity less than 1.0 will float on top of water.


Ability of a material to remain unchanged. A material is stable if it remains in the same form under expected and reasonable conditions of storage and use.


Short Term Exposure Limit is the maximum level for a continuous 15 minutes exposure period. This is limited to a maximum of four times throughout the day, with at least one hour between exposure, and provided that the daily TLV-TWA is not exceeded.

Synergistic Effects:

Exposure to more than one chemical can result in health effects greater than expected when the effects of exposure to each chemical are added together.


Affecting the entire body.

Target Organ Effects:

Chemically caused effects upon organs and system such as the liver, kidneys, nervous system, lung, skin and eyes from exposure to a material.


An agent or substance that may cause physical defects in the developing fetus when a pregnant female is exposed to the substance.


Threshold Limit Value is airborne concentrations of substances devised by the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) that represent conditions under which it is believed that nearly all workers may be exposed day after day with no adverse health effects. TLVs are advisory exposure guidelines, not legal standards, that are based on evidence from industrial experience, animal studies, or human studies when they exist. (see also PEL).


The sum of adverse effects of exposure to materials, generally by mouth, skin or respiratory tract.

TWA (Time Weighted Average):

The average time, over a given work period (e.g., 8 to 12 hours work day), of a person's exposure to a chemical or agent. The average is determined by sampling for the contaminant throughout the time period. Represented as TLV-TWA.


UPPER EXPLOSIVE LIMIT is the highest concentration of a gas or vapor in the air that will produce a flash or fire when an ignition source is present.


A material can evaporate.


The ability of a material to evaporate.


The gaseous form of substances which are normally in the liquid or solid state at normal room temperature and pressure.

Vapor Density:

The weight of a vapor or gas as compared to the weight of an equal volume of air. Materials lighter than air have a vapor density of less than 1.0, whereas materials heavier than air have a vapor density greater than 1.0.

Vapor Pressure:

A number used to describe the pressure that a saturated vapor will exert on top of its own liquid in a closed container. Usually, the higher the vapor pressure, the lower the boiling point, and therefore, the more dangerous the material can be, if flammable.