Are Material Safety Data Sheets in the U.S. Good to Ship Products to the EU?

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), also called Chemical Safety Data Sheet (CSDS) in some parts of the world, or simply Safety Data Sheet (SDS) in the EU, is a document, generally with a regulated format and content, to convey information on the risk and safety measures associated with a chemical product. Suppliers of chemicals are usually required to provide a SDS to the users of chemicals, and sometimes also to authorities.

In the EU, SDS are regulated by the REACH Regulation, which describes in great detail how the document must be compiled.

However, the fact that the rules on SDS are provided in REACH, which is a Regulation directly applicable in all the EU Member States, does not mean that a single SDS will fit across all countries. REACH provides for variations across countries and requires reviewing the specifics in each state.

The most obvious variation is the language. The SDS must be provided in the language(s) of the country. So, for example, an SDS used in Germany should be in German. Attention must be paid however to countries were there is more than one official language. In Belgium for example, where official languages are Dutch, French and German, a chemicals supplier will have to take into consideration the languages understood by the user. If various users speak different languages, the supplier will have to provide version of the SDS in the official languages.

Aside from the language, there are other types of variations, like the emergency telephone number (required in Section 1 of a REACH-compliant SDS). Safety Data Sheets need to display the phone number that a chemical user may call to obtain advice on emergency measures in case of an accident involving the chemical. A chemical supplier may choose to indicate the number of the local anti-poison center–where there is one. Indeed, not all EU countries have an anti-poison center.

Other examples of variations between SDS for different EU countries include the occupational exposure limits (OELs, required in Section 8). The OEL for a given chemical substance generally varies from one country to another. A SDS must display the OEL applicable in the country where the chemical is used. REACH-compliant SDS must also refer to local regulations, for example as regards to the rules for waste disposal (regulating how the chemcials packaging and residues must be disposed of).

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