[BLOG] MSDS : what the heck ???

Do you know what MSDS stands for? No worries if you don’t, I also recently learned what it means… and how helpful it can be in a shelter environment !

We were doing a lecture at the Gatineau SPCA, QC, on shelter sanitation. During the coffee break (because a coffee break is definitely needed when you attend to one of my lectures!), somebody came to ask me a question about the disinfectant they were using. She was wondering if it could be harmful for her and what precautions should be taken to use it if there was any risk. This was the first time I was asked this question (and you will agree that this is definitely an important one!), but I must admit I never gave it any thoughts. After all, I am a veterinarian and I spend my time focusing on how these products can help us target the dangerous pathogens that can affect dogs and cats in a shelter environment!

My answer was that this information should be provided by the product manufacturer… and this is when I received an unexpected hand! My colleague Chantal – who in her previous life worked for a pharmaceutical company- told us that in fact, we should have a look into the product MSDS. My first reaction: “MSDS? What the heck?”

In fact MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet. A material safety data sheet (MSDS) is an important component of product stewardship and occupational safety and health. It is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting pointboiling pointflash point, etc.), toxicityhealth effectsfirst aidreactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures. MSDS formats can vary from source to source within a country depending on national requirements (Ok this last part is definitely not from me but from our friend Wikipedia!).

Chantal showed us the MSDS of the product we were talking about on her Ipad and indeed, we could find all the answers to this question! For any given product, this file is available on line (I usually don’t say that, but this time you can just google the name of the product +MSDS and it will give you access to this valuable information). After this interesting discussion, I came up with a new recommendation: shelters must have on hand these precious files for the products they are using and should have a look at what is written inside. That’s the better way to know how to react in case of inhalation/ingestion/eye contact/skin contact/etc… with the given product. You’ll find below the links to the MSDS of the most common disinfectants used in shelters, don’t hesitate to print them, one day who knows, you might need them! And thank you Chantal for this valuable information!!!

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