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Measurement and Sources of Toxic Substances

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A Chemical Safety Data Sheet, or chemical SDS, provides much-needed information about hazards that are located within the workplace. OSHA and EPA regulations help companies create risk management programs in order to minimize exposure to chemicals.

At this time, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a list of approximately 400 chemical compounds that are considered Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH). An IDLH is defined as any item where exposure to it poses a threat of permanent adverse health effects or death. This extensive NIOSH list includes intermediate compounds which are more toxic than the final substance.

OSHA Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for chemical SDS documents. These documents must list precise information in order to be in line with regulation. A typical form has 16 sections with sections one through eight containing general information about the compound. This includes the chemical identification and composition, how to handle it, hazards, and any emergency control measures. Sections 9, 10, 11, and 16 contain scientific and technical information. Finally, sections 12 through 15 bring constancy to the document, bringing it in line with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS sections are not enforced by OSHA.

On the chemical SDS, companies should note permissible and occupational exposure limits (PEL and OEL) for each compound. The NIOSH and EPA recognize over 500 PEL standards for various chemicals.

Measurement Devices

OSHA's safety guidelines require detectors in areas where hazardous chemicals are used or manufactured. The detectors should alert workers to evacuate the area if the OEL is exceeded. Detectors can be either Gas Chromatography (GC) or Photoionization Detectors (PID). Some GC monitors also contain PID analyzers or Flame Ionization Detector (FID) incorporated. These monitors are also able to detect levels in the parts per billion (ppb) or sub-ppb range. It is ideal for these measuring devices to be battery operated. This feature allows for them to continue monitoring during a power outage or be moved to another area as needed.

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