Are safety data sheets for cleaning products used in Norway a factor contributing to the risk of workers exposure to chemicals?

Market Surveillance of Chemicals, Labour Inspection Authority, Oslo, Norway
Institute of Industrial Economics and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2014;27(5):840–853
Objectives: Cleaning products are considered less hazardous than those used in other sectors. Suppliers and distributors are less conscientious when it comes to informing users on health risks. The aim of the study was to elaborate on the usefulness and clarity of information in the safety data sheets (SDS) for cleaning products, and considering if the use of these SDSs can be seen as a risk factor towards occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in the sector. Material and Methods: Safety data sheets were selected based on the risk level of the product assigned in an industrial sector scheme. 320 SDSs for cleaning products were reviewed. Constituent components found in the products over a given threshold were listed and available information thereof used to assess the perceived non-hazard consideration of the chemicals. Results: The contents of the SDSs was generic and mostly incomplete. Safety measures and health information lacked sufficient specificity despite varying compositions and concentrations of components. There is generally incompatibility between mentioned sections on the suggested non-hazardous nature of the products and health effects. Not all substances used in these products have harmonized classifications, which makes them open to various classification of the products and the suggested safety measures. This results in different companies classifying similar products differently. Risk management measures and suggested personal protective equipment (PPEs) are given haphazardly. Physical properties relevant to risk assessment are not included. Conclusions: The safety data sheets are ambiguous, and they lack relevant and important information. Inadequate information and risk assessment concerning the products can lead to workers being exposed to hazardous chemicals. Underestimation of the hazard contribution of the components of the products and the insufficient, non-objective mention of appropriate control and protective measures are the major contributing elements. There is a need to test the products in order to establish health effects and product specific safety measures.
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