Work Matters: Step 1 - Find Out Which Chemicals You May Be Exposed To
Knowing the chemicals you may be exposed to at work is the first step towards being able to prevent harmful exposures. Your employer is required to provide you with this critical information, but it is also important that you know what to look for on your own.
Just like any food you buy at the grocery store has an ingredient list, so do the chemical products you use or are indirectly exposed to at work. Locating and understanding these lists is the best way to get a full picture of the types of harmful chemicals that you could potentially be exposed to. Ingredients should be listed directly on the product’s label.
In addition, ask to see material safety data sheets (MSDS) for the product and all of the listed chemical ingredients. MSDS provide information about hazardous chemicals and products. Your employer is required to have an up-to-date MSDS for each hazardous chemical or product you are exposed to; Product formulations often change, so the MSDS must be for the specific product you are using. When reading an MSDS, be sure to take note of the name of each chemical, the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number and the amount or percentage of each chemical in each product. The CAS number is in Section II of any MSDS and it is important because a chemical can have different names but only one CAS number.
For more information on MSDSs or to find an MSDS online please visit the California Department of Public Health website.
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