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What is an Ethanol MSDS?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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An ethanol MSDS is a sheet which provides basic information about the chemical ethanol. MSDS is an acronym for “material safety data sheet.” Such sheets must be issued with chemicals and stored in facilities which use chemicals, classically in a lab binder which can be consulted by employees. The purpose of an ethanol MSDS is to provide people with some basic information about ethanol so that they can work with it safely and so that they will know what to do in the event of a problem.

The manufacturer of a chemical must prepare an MSDS. Much of the information on an MSDS is standardized, but the information at the top of the sheet will change. This information includes data about the manufacturer, the manufacturer's location, the specific concentration of the chemical, and so forth. The MSDS may be pasted onto the side of a container used to ship and store the chemical in addition to being released in looseleaf form.

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Like other material safety data sheets, an ethanol MSDS provides information about the physical properties of ethanol, the potential hazards associated with it, the health risks, how to dispose of it, what to do in a fire, and so forth. An ethanol MSDS can also include a diamond rating from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This standardized rating system provides information about the potential flammability, hazards to human health, and instability of chemicals. In the case of ethanol, the NFPA ratings are two for health, three for flammability, and zero for instability.

An ethanol MSDS should include information about the specific organ systems which can be affected by ethanol, including the central nervous system, heart, liver, and kidneys. Ethanol can also cause birth defects, irritation to the intestinal tract, skin irritation, and eye irritation. The MSDS details what to do in the event of accidental release or exposure, and stresses that both the fluid and the vapor can be harmful. First aid depends on the type of exposure; for something like ethanol splashed in the eye, the eye needs to be flushed, for example.

The ethanol MSDS also provides handling and storage directions. Because this chemical is flammable, it is important to store it in containers suitable for the handling of flammable materials, and spark-proof tools and equipment must be used around it. MSDS information must also include directions about disposal and potential environmental effects so that people know what to do with ethanol when they have surplus which they need to discard.

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