A BLUEGREEN ALLIANCE/CLEARYA ANALYSIS OF THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY’S HEALTH HAZARD WARNINGS ON SAFETY DATA SHEETS
30% The BlueGreen Alliance and Clearya review of an initial set of more than 650 Safety Data Sheets (SDS) shows that 30% of SDSs analyzed included inaccurate chemical hazard warnings.
15% of the SDSs with cancer-causing chemicals failed to warn of carcinogenicity.
21% of the SDSs for products with chemicals that harm reproduction did not warn that they could harm fertility or fetal development.
During the Trump administration, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) convinced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to weaken the risk evaluations the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention was conducting under the 2016 improvements to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). While the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act included workers as a potentially exposed subpopulation whose risk must be considered, the Trump EPA accepted the ACC position that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides all the federal rules needed to fully protect workers from chemical exposures.
This analysis of the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) that are OSHA’s main required method of chemical hazard warning exposes the deception in the ACC argument. The BlueGreen Alliance and Clearya review of an initial set of more than 650 SDSs shows that 30% of SDSs analyzed included inaccurate chemical hazard warnings.
- Thirty carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances were present in 512 of the obtained SDSs, and 15% of these SDSs failed to report carcinogenicity in the Hazards Identification section.
- Twenty-one percent of 372 SDSs with chemicals toxic to reproduction (harming fertility or fetal development) lacked warnings for this hazard.
- Thirteen percent of 278 SDSs with chemicals of specific organ target toxicity either omitted or showed inaccurate warnings for this hazard.
One telling example of these errors is found in an SDS for vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen. The SDS defined vinyl chloride as a chemical that causes skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, but it lacked any mention of carcinogenicity. Another SDS for benzene, which should warn of its mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and specific target organ toxicity, only reported skin and eye irritation and harmfulness if swallowed, contacted with skin, or inhaled. It failed to mention the other highly hazardous effects of this well-studied chemical.
The Biden administration is revising the Trump EPA’s TSCA risk evaluations. However, more needs to be done so employers who purchase chemical products and the workers that use those products are accurately being warned of the chemical exposures that kill between 50,000 to 120,000 U.S. workers every year and add to the contamination of fenceline communities and the products we use every day.