Safety Data Sheet Glossary of Terms

Expand your SDS knowledge with our SDS glossary of terms that have been written and compiled by the experts at Chemscape Safety Technologies.




Accidental Release
An unintended or sudden release of chemical(s) from manufacturing, processing, handling, or on-site storage facilities to the air, water, or land.
ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists)
a scientific association that develops recommendations or guidelines to assist in the control of occupational health hazards. 
severe and sudden onset.
Acute Toxicity
refers to the adverse effects of a substance that occur within 14 days of exposure.
AIHA (American Industrial Hygiene Association)
an organization that provides information and resources to Industrial Hygienists and Occupational Health professionals.
deprivation of oxygen that can result in unconsciousness and often death.
breathing foreign objects into your airways.
Autoignition Temperature
the minimum temperature required to ignite a gas or vapor in the air without a spark or flame being present.


is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides or other chemicals, in an organism.
Boiling Point
 is the temperature at which a liquid changes into a gas at normal atmospheric pressure.


CANUTEC (Canadian Transport Emergency Centre)
is a safety hotline operated by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Directorate of Transport Canada. It was established to promote the safe movement of people and goods throughout Canada.
Carcinogen/ Carcinogenicity
a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
CEPA (Canadian Environmental Protection Act)
Canada’s federal environmental legislation aimed at preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.
CAS Number
are unique chemical identifiers up to 10-digits long assigned by Chemical Abstracts Service.
persisting for a long time or constantly recurring
the process of classifying substances according to certain established criteria.
CCCR (Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations)
regulations set out labeling and packaging requirements for chemical products to inform consumers of the potential hazards that a product may pose during use.
the action of keeping something harmful under control inside a sealed container or within limits.
Control Banding
a risk assessment method that is typically used to evaluate chemicals and is particularly useful for small businesses who need a simple method to manage workplace hazards.
refers to substances that cause visible destruction to the packaging they are contained in (leading to leaks) as well as in living tissue (ex. skin, eyes, respiratory tract) at the site of contact.


Date of Preparation
is the date the SDS was authored and published.
Decomposition Temperature
is the temperature at which the substance chemically decomposes.
Decomposition Products
is the result of a reaction in which a compound breaks down into two or more simpler substances.
relating to the skin or dermis.
DOT (Department of Transportation)
is a federal department of the U.S. government concerned with transportation.
DSL (Domestic Substances List)
is an inventory of approximately 23 000 substances manufactured in, imported into or used in Canada on a commercial scale.


the potential for biological, chemical, or physical stressors to affect ecosystems.
adverse effects on an embryo due to a substance that enters the maternal system and crosses the placental barrier; the effects of the substance can include embryonic death or abnormal development and damage to maternal health.
Evaporation Rate
the rate at which a material will vaporize (evaporate, change from liquid to vapor) compared to the rate of vaporization of a specific known material. It is useful in determining flammability.
Exposure Control
processes, procedures and practices for working safely with hazardous materials.


Fire point
the temperature at which the flame becomes self-sustained so as to continue burning the liquid. The fire point is usually a few degrees above the flash point.
Flammability Limits
generally apply to vapors and are defined as the concentration range in which a flammable substance can produce a fire or explosion when an ignition source (such as a spark or open flame) is present. Above the upper flammable limit (UFL) the mixture of substance and air is too rich in fuel (deficient in oxygen) to burn. This is sometimes called the upper explosive limit (UEL). Below the lower flammable limit (LFL) the mixture of substance and air is too lean (lacks sufficient fuel) to burn. This is sometimes called the lower explosive limit (LEL).
Flash point
the lowest temperature at which a liquid gives off vapor to form an ignitable mixture in air near the surface of the liquid. The lower the flash point, the easier it is to ignite the material.
Freezing Point
the temperature at which a liquid becomes a solid.


stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. GHS defines and classifies the hazards of chemical products and the communication of health and safety information on labels and safety data sheets.


Hazard Identification
This section of the SDS provides the hazards of the substance  and the appropriate warning information associated with those hazards. 
Hazards Not Otherwise Classified
the substance does not display an adverse physical or health effect to meet the criteria for classification as a hazard or is in a hazard class not adopted by the local regulatory authority (OSHA/Health Canada).
Hazard Pictogram
are graphic images that immediately show the user of a hazardous product what type of hazard is present. A hazard symbol within a red "square set on one of its points".
Hazard Statement
is a phrase that describes the nature of the hazard in the substance or mixture.
a hazard communication standard that requires US chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets.
Hierarchy of Control
the practice of implementing effective controls for chemical hazards in the workplace. The 5 hierarchy of controls are elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment.
HMIS (Hazardous Materials Identification System)
is a numerical hazard rating that incorporates the use of labels with color developed by the American Coatings Association. It includes chemical identification, chronic and acute health hazard indicator, flammability rating, reactivity rating, and PPE.


IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer)
is an intergovernmental agency under the World Health Organization of the United Nations. Its role is to conduct and coordinate research into the causes of cancer. It also collects and publishes surveillance data regarding the occurrence of cancer worldwide.
ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization)
is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It changes the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
IMDG (International Maritime Dangerous Goods)
is accepted as an international guideline to the safe transportation or shipment of dangerous goods or hazardous materials by water on a vessel.
Incompatible Material
two substances that give an undesired chemical reaction when mixed. This usually refers to substances that will react to cause an imminent threat to health and safety through an explosion, fire, and/or formation of toxic gases.
Industrial Hygiene
Is the practice of protecting the health and safety of workers by following 5 principles: anticipation, recognition, evaluation, control, and confirm.
incapable of being dissolved in a liquid, especially water. 


Manufacturer/Supplier Name
the name, address and telephone number of the manufacturer or the importer.
Means of Extinction
also referred to as extinguishing media, are agents which can put out fires.
Melting Point
is the temperature at which a solid material becomes a liquid.
a combination of two or more substances.
Molecular Weight
The molecular weight of a chemical is a number showing how heavy one molecule (or unit) of the chemical is compared to the mass of carbon, which has a weight of 12. The molecular weight has various technical uses, such as calculating conversions from parts per million (ppm) to milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3) in air.
stands for material safety data sheet and was the previous generation before the GHS SDS standard was adopted.
MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration)
is the United States government agency responsible for enforcing the health and safety regulations and standards for American miners. 
is the ability of a substance to cause changes in the DNA of cells (mutations).


NDSL (Non-Domestic Substances List)
Substances listed on the NDSL are based on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) chemical substances inventory and are subject to notification with the Canadian government but with reduced information requirements.
NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
is an international non-profit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.
NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
is a branch of the United States government which undertakes research and develops occupational health and safety standards.
NTP (National Toxicology Program)
is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The NTP has a large program for testing the potential carcinogenicity of chemicals. 
NPRI (National Pollutant Release Inventory)
collects information from Canadian industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities on their releases (to air, water, and land), disposals, and transfers of pollutants and other substances of concern.


Odour threshold
is the lowest concentration of a chemical in the air that is detectable by the sense of smell.
OEL (Occupational Exposure Limit)
represents the maximum airborne concentration of a toxic substance to which a worker can be exposed over a period of time without suffering any harmful consequences.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
is the branch of the United States government which sets and enforces occupational health and safety regulations.
Oxidizing agent
is a material that gives up oxygen easily or can readily oxidize other materials. Typically, the substance will support a fire and is highly reactive.


Particulates not otherwise classified
is a term defined by the ACGIH. It is used to describe particulates for which there is no evidence of specific toxic effects such as fibrosis or systemic effects. These materials are not to be considered inert, however, and can produce general toxic effects depending on the airborne concentration.
PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit)
is the maximum concentration of a hazardous substance that a worker can be exposed to as set by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
is clothing or devices worn to help isolate a person from direct exposure to a hazardous material or situation.
refers to a characteristic of chemicals that don't break down easily in the environment.
is a measure of the strength of an acid or base (alkalinity) in water. It is expressed on a scale from 0 to 14.
Physical State
is one of four distinct forms of matter:solid, liquid, gas and plasma.
is a natural or man-made material formed by combining units, called monomers, into long chains. 
is the process of creating a polymer by combining large numbers of chemical units or monomers into long chains.
stands for parts per billion.
stands for parts per million.
Precautionary Statements
standardized phrases that describe measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous product or resulting from improper handling or storage of a hazardous product.
Process enclosure
is a means that the operation in which the material used is completely contained. A physical barrier separates the worker from the potential health or fire hazard.
Product Name
the brand name, chemical name, common name, generic name or trade name of the hazardous product.
stands for pounds per square inch and is a unit of pressure.
a substance that ignites spontaneously in air at or below 54 °C (129 °F) (for gases) or within 5 minutes after coming into contact with air (for liquids and solids) as defined by GHS.


is the push for a chemical substance to undergo a chemical reaction, either by itself or with other materials, with an overall release of energy.
Relative Density
also called specific gravity, is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a given reference material. Specific gravity for liquids is measured against water; for gases, air, at room temperature, is the reference.
RQ (Reportable Quantity)
is the minimum amount of hazardous substance that requires reporting to the EPA National Response Center.
RTECS (Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances)
is a database of toxicity information compiled from the open scientific literature without reference to the validity or usefulness of the studies reported.
RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
is a U.S. EPA statute regulating the disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste.
Reactive flammable materials
a material that is a dangerous fire risk because it can react readily with air or water. It must be kept dry and isolated from oxygen (in air) or other oxidizing agents. Therefore, it is often stored and handled in an atmosphere of inert gas, such as nitrogen or argon.
Reproductive effects
are problems in the reproductive process which may be caused by a substance including reduced fertility in the male or female, menstrual changes, miscarriage, embryotoxicity, fetotoxicity, teratogenicity, or harmful effects to the nursing infant from chemicals in breast milk.
Routes of Exposure
the way a hazardous substance enters the body: inhalation, skin (or eye) absorption, ingestion, and injection. Inhalation: For most chemicals in the form of vapors, gases, mists, or particulates, inhalation is the major route of entry.


Safety Data Sheet
A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a document that provides important information about the hazards of a product with instructions on how to handle it safely.
SARA (Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act )
is a regulation created to solve the problems of hazardous-waste sites. Title III of the SARA provisions is known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Signal Word
used to emphasize chemical hazards and indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard. There are only two signal words in GHS: "Danger" or "Warning". "Danger" indicates more severe hazards. 
is the development, over time, of an allergic reaction to a chemical. The chemical may cause a mild response on the first few exposures but, as the allergy develops, the response becomes worse with subsequent exposures. Eventually, even short exposures to low concentrations can cause a very severe reaction.
is the ability of a material to dissolve in water or another liquid.
is a material, usually a liquid, which is capable of dissolving another chemical. Chemicals commonly called solvents can dissolve many different chemicals.
Specific Gravity
is the ratio of the density of a material to the density of water. Most materials have specific gravities exceeding 1.0, which means they are heavier than water and will sink. Knowing the specific gravity is important for planning spill clean-up and fire fighting procedures.
is the ability of a material to remain unchanged in the presence of heat, moisture or air. An unstable material may decompose, polymerize, burn or explode under normal environmental conditions.
means that 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. When chemicals are synergistic, the potential hazards of the chemicals should be re-evaluated, taking their synergistic properties into consideration.
alternative names for the same substance.
Supplemental information
is required based on the classification of the product. For example, the label for a mixture containing ingredients with unknown toxicity in amounts higher than or equal to 1% must include a statement indicating the percent of the ingredient or ingredients with unknown toxicity.
Supplemental information
is required based on the classification of the product. For example, the label for a mixture containing ingredients with unknown toxicity in amounts higher than or equal to 1% must include a statement indicating the percent of the ingredient or ingredients with unknown toxicity.


Target Organ Effects
chemicals are identified as having target organ effects if there is statistically significant evidence of an acute or chronic health effect determined in a scientifically valid study.
is the ability of a chemical to cause birth defects. Teratogenicity results from a harmful effect to the embryo or the fetus/foetus.
Time-Weighted Average (TWA)
The concentration of a hazardous substance in the air averaged over an 8-hour workday and a 40-hour workweek to which it is believed that workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, for a working lifetime without adverse effects.
Thermal decomposition products
chemicals which may be formed when the material is heated but does not burn. These chemicals may be toxic, flammable or have other hazards. The chemicals released and their amounts vary depending upon conditions such as the temperature. 
TDG (Transportation of Dangerous Goods)
is a Canadian regulation to regulate the transportation of potentially hazardous materials and administered by Transport Canada. The TDG Act and Regulations set out criteria for the classification of materials as dangerous goods and state how these materials must be packaged and shipped.
TLV (Threshold Limit Value)
is the occupational exposure limit established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).
is the ability of a substance to cause harmful health effects.
stands for Toxic Substances Control Act (U.S.).
stands for Time-Weighted Average.


UN number
stands for United Nations number. The UN number is a four-digit number assigned to a potentially hazardous material (i.e. gasoline, UN 1203).
Unstable (reactive)
a chemical is identified as unstable (reactive) if in the pure state, or as produced or transported, it will vigorously polymerize, decompose, condense, or will become self-reactive under conditions of shock, pressure, or temperature.


is the gaseous form of a material which is normally solid or liquid at room temperature and pressure. 
Vapour Density
is the weight per unit volume of a pure gas or vapour.
Vapor Pressure
is a measure of the tendency of a material to form a vapour. The higher the vapour pressure, the higher the potential vapour concentration.
is a measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness."
is the movement of air. One of the main purposes of ventilation is to remove contaminated air from the workplace. 
is the ability of a material to evaporate. The term volatile is commonly used to describe a material that evaporates easily.


Weight Percent
the amount (weight) of a substance expressed as a percentage of the total mixture weight.
WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System)
is a Canadian hazard communication program that requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets.


Elevate the level of occupational health standards for your company.