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Understanding Acronyms on MSDS's

Material safety is a concern of everyone these days, especially educational institutions. While none of the materials we commonly use pose acute poisoning risks, they do present some hazards over years of exposure. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are supposed to be available from the manufacturers of all ceramic materials, bodies, glazes, etc. But these can be hard to interpret sometimes because of acronyms used. Here are some of the ones you will see.

CEPA Status:

The Domestic Substances List (DSL) and the Non-Domestic Substances List (NDSL) were created in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) by Environment Canada. The DSL defines "existing" substances for the purposes of implementing CEPA and is the sole basis for determining whether a substance is "existing" or "new" to Canada. The NDSL specifies substances, other than those on the DSL, that were in world commerce, but not in Canada, and is based on the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) 1985 inventory compiled for the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). For more information Visit the CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety) at http://www.ccohs.ca/products/databases/dsl.html.


The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is Canada's hazard communication standard. The key elements of the system are cautionary labelling of containers of WHMIS "controlled products", the provision of material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and worker education programs. For more information visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/whmis/index.htm.


The USA Environmental Protection Agency. Their home page is at http://www.epa.gov/


The Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) is the primary USA Federal statute regulating the use of certain chemicals and substances, lincluding asbestos, PCBs, radon and lead. Federal facilities may have regulatory responsibilities under TSCA, including complying with regulations governing the proper handling, use, storage and disposal of certain substances and maintaining records. Part of EPA's mission is to ensure that Federal facilities comply with these requirements. For more information visit http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/federal/tsca.html. If you are seeing this as a webpage then Click Here for a regional page that has many links and more information.

CAS Number

Chemistry Abstracts Service is a team of scientists, creating and delivering the most complete and effective digital information environment for scientific research and discovery. Since 1907, CAS has indexed and summarized chemistry-related articles from more than 40,000 scientific journals, in addition to patents, conference proceedings and other documents pertinent to chemistry, life sciences and many other fields. In total, abstracts for more than 21 million documents are accessible online through CAS.

Substance identification is a special strength of CAS, which is widely known as the CAS Registry at http://www.cas.org/EO/regsys.html, the largest substance identification system in existence. When a chemical substance is newly encountered in the literature processed by CAS, its molecular structure diagram, systematic chemical name, molecular formula, and other identifying information are added to the Registry and assigned a unique CAS Registry Number.

For more information visit http://www.cas.org/EO/regsys.html.


The National Institutde of Standards and Technology (USA) was founded in 1901. It is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration. NIST's mission is to develop and promote measurements, standards, and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life. For more information visit http://www.nist.gov.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer is part of the World Health Organization. IARC's mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control. For more information visit http://www.iarc.fr.


The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the Federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html). The Institute is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/.


U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA and its state partners have approximately 2100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country. This staff establishes protective standards, enforces those standards, and reaches out to employers and employees through technical assistance and consultation programs. Website is at http://www.osha.gov/.


The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®) is a member-based organization and community of professionals that advances worker health and safety through education and the development and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge. Examples of this include annual editions of the TLVs® and work practice guides.


Threshold Limit Values are established by ACGIH as an occupational exposure guideline. They refer to how many milligrams of the material are suspended in each cubic meter of air.


OSHA sets permissible exposure limits (PELs) to protect workers against the health effects of exposure to hazardous substances (like TLV, these refer to mg per cubic meter of air). PELs are regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air. PELs are enforceable. For the OSHA mineral dust limits visit http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9994.

Many of the people that work in the above organizations are highly educated volunteers who dedicatate much time and money. They thus regard material safety is a very important issue, many have possibly been hurt or seen others hurt by disregard of safety by worker or employee. If you are a reading this document, think clearly about what you can do to help yourself and others.

Out Bound Links

  • (Hazards) The Use of Barium in Clay Bodies

    Hazards of barium carbonate, considerations regarding its use in clay bodies for precipitation of soluble salts

  • (Glossary) CAS Numbers

    CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) is a registry of chemical identification numbers maintained by the American Chemical Society. Although ceramic materials are generally minerals or processed minerals rather than chemicals, most do have numbers in the system. However many of the numbers do not have a ...

By Tony Hansen

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