17. Chemical Safety and Toxicology Information
C471 Lecture Notes
Updated: 3 December 2003
All too often we see news stories of chemical industry practices that
have had negative effects on health or the environment or
hear reports of serious accidents or spills involving chemicals. An
item in Chemical & Engineering News (December 8, 1997, p. 17)
"Hanford tanks leaking to groundwater." Groundwater was being
contaminated with liquid wastes that had leaked from the tanks at the
former nuclear weapons plant in Richland, Washington. The public
perception of chemistry is tarnished by such stories, so chemists have a
responsibility to use the safest possible practices in handling chemical
substances and disposing of them. The American Chemical Society's 1994 document
"The Chemist's Code of Conduct" contains these statements:
"Chemists should actively be concerned with the health and welfare of co-workers, consumers, and the community."
"Chemists should understand and anticipate the environmental consequences of
their work. Chemists have responsibility to avoid pollution and to protect
In this section, we will encounter
printed and computer-based sources to help keep abreast of the hazards
associated with chemical substances
and to become aware of the rules and regulations that govern the use of
A large number of acronyms are found in the health and safety area, for
example, TLV (Threshold Limit Value). There are also quite a few
numbers, in addition to Chemical Abstracts Registry Numbers, that are
used to identify chemical substances that have been studied for their
environmental or health and safety impact. A single chemical substance
may have a DOT (Department of Transportation) number, an RTECS number
(from the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances), and several
others assigned by various US, European, International, or other agencies.
Furthermore, new types of chemical data, not likely to have been seen
will be encountered for chemical substances in the
reference tools or databases discussed in this section. These include
things such as the octanol/water partition coefficient (Kow), soil organic carbon
partition coefficient (Koc),
nitrification inhibition, acute toxicity data, and others.
A good printed subject guide to environmentally-related topics is the
Encyclopedia of Environmental Information Sources (1993). For over 800
subject areas, ranging from hazardous materials to alternative energy, the
encyclopedia lists the major sources of information. Identified are
specialized abstracting and indexing services, bibliographies, directories,
encyclopedias and dictionaries, handbooks and manuals, online databases, and
Mirroring the scope and depth of coverage found in the comprehensive
treatises published by Pergamon in inorganic, organic, organometallic
and other areas of chemistry is the 13-volume Comprehensive Toxicology,
in 1997. The work covers toxicology from the molecular to the organismal
level, including a review of the general principles of toxicology, test
procedures and data evaluation, and biotransformation of chemicals. The
bulk of the volumes, however, are devoted to the specific organ systems
of toxicology. Volume 12 treats current concepts of carcinogenesis.
Works encountered in other contexts, such as the Merck Index or
the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology include quite
a bit of information on the hazardous or safety aspects of the chemicals
discussed. However, there are a large number of specialized reference
tools whose primary aim is to make the retrieval of such information very
easy. Some of those are introduced below.
Sax's Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials (3 v., 10th ed.,
covers over 23,500 toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, highly flammable, or
potentially explosive substances. Included are health-related and
physical property data. There are many pages of synonyms in several
languages to assist in using the work. It is also indexed by CAS Registry
Number. A CD-ROM version is also available.
Bretherick's Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards (5th ed., 1995)
covers some 5,000 elements and compounds. Now published in two volumes,
the first is devoted to specific information on the stability of the
compounds or the reactivity of mixtures of two or more of them under
various conditions. In volume 2 are found groups of chemical substances
arranged on the basis of similarities in structure or reactivity. Stability
data on single specific
compounds, data on possible violent interaction between two or more
compounds, general data on a class or group of compounds (or information
on the identity of individual compounds in a known hazardous group),
structures associated with explosive instability, and fire-related data
are all included in the work. Information on how to use the handbook
includes the important caveat "Do not assume that lack of
information means that no hazard exists." Over 2,000 pages of
information make this the work to consult first for hazardous reaction
information. A CD-ROM version is also available, and it can be found on
Patty's Industrial Hygiene and Patty's Toxicology, now in the 5th
edition, collectively cover General Principles, Toxicology, and Theory and Rationale.
The focus of the work in recent editions has been extended beyond the
industrial workplace to environmental safety and hazard control. It is now also
The Dictionary of Substances and their Effects (DOSE) covers over 4,100
chemicals that have been studied for environmental impact or toxicity.
The second edition of the print product appeared in 7 volumes in 1999.
All purchasers of the
print edition of DOSE receive free site-wide access to a fully searchable
Web database. DOSE includes results of recent carcinogenicity, mutagenicity,
and environmental fate studies, as well as the latest regulatory requirements.
MSDSs or Material Safety Data Sheets are available from the manuafacturer
of chemical substances. It is to the manufacturer's advantage to insure
that all known hazardous aspects and recommended precautions are clearly
laid out to the user of their products, and that is the primary purpose
of the MSDS. A very useful guide to MSDSs on the
Internet includes sample MSDSs and sources of MSDSs, both on the
Internet and elsewhere.
In 1983, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published
the Hazard Communication Standard, requiring chemical manufacturers and
distributors to provide MSDSs to their customers beginning in late 1985.
Since 1993, chemical manufacturers in the US have followed a voluntary MSDS
format that is endorsed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The most important information appears at the top, followed by the chemical
name, manufacturer, and composition. The third section identifies known
hazards associated with the substance. First-aid measures are next, followed
by fire-fighting measures.
The most critical parts of an MSDS are the human
health hazards and acceptable exposure limits. However, data on human testing
is rare, so MSDSs generally rely on animal test data. The foreign equivalents
of the US MSDSs are much shorter. Those are called "International Chemical
Safety Cards (ICSCs) and are published by the World Health Organization and
the European Union.
Such documents as MSDSs and ICSCs are really geared toward the larger quantities
of chemicals used in industry. For academic institutions, although MSDSs are
still required on site, a book such as the US National Research Council's
Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
contains much practical information. The book includes Laboratory Chemical
Safety Summaries (LCSSs) that provide the same type of information as do MSDSs,
but are geared for the laboratory user. Also found in the work are guidance
on risk assessment and tips on how to work with laboratory equipment.
The Environmental Science Center of Syracuse Research Corporation makes
available a searchable Physical
Properties Database (PHYSPROP) that covers over 25,000 substances.
An example of the output is below:
NLM's TOXNET (Toxicology Data
Service) is a free service with access to many toxicology databases that
formerly cost money to search. Included are:
- Toxicology Data Search for factual information in the databases HSDB
(see below), Gene-Tox, CCRIS (carcinogenesis), and IRIS (EPA's risk
- Toxicology Literature Search for bibliographic records from TOXLINE
and the genotoxic/reproductive database DART/ETIC.
- TRI (Toxic
Release Inventory) Search, reporting EPA's annual estimate of releases of
toxic substances into the environment
- Chemical Information Search for identification of substances by
name, structure, etc. (ChemIDplus contains >367,000 records and
>182,000 structures;, HSDB: >4,500
records; and NCI-3D: >213,000 substances).
The Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) contains over 4,500 chemical
records, each of which can have as many as 150 or so fields of data,
covering human health effects, emergency medical treatment, animal
toxicity studies, metabolism/pharmacokinetics, pharmacology,
environmental fate and exposure, environmental standards and
regulations, chemical/physical properties, chemical safety and handling,
occupational exposure standards and more. HSDB is peer-reviewed by a committee
of experts, the Scientific Review Panel (SRP).
Among the numerous reasonably priced databases offered by CCOHS is RTECS,
the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances. RTECS was originally
produced by the US
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), but has now been
outsourced to MDL. RTECS
toxicological information with citations on over 140,000 chemical
substances. Included are toxicological data and
reviews, international workplace exposure limits, references to US
standards and regulations, analytical methods, and exposure and hazard
survey data. RTECS contains:
- > 400,000 chemical names and synonyms
- > 130,000 unique CAS numbers
- toxicity data such as LD50 or LC50 (lethal
- tumorigenic and reproductive effects
- carcinogenicity status.
CCOHS also maintains an extensive Material Safety Data
Sheet collection and other databases covering aspects of occupational
safety and health that range to ergonomics/workplace design and
psychological aspects of a safe workplace environment.
Incorporated into the results of substance searches on SciFinder and
SciFinder Scholar is a link to Chemical Abstracts Service's
CHEMLIST database, a source of regulatory information for over 220,000
chemical substances covering 1979 to the present. From the STN Database
Summary Sheet of 10/03:
The CHEMLIST File (Regulated Chemicals Listing) contains chemical substances on national inventories, such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory, the European Inventory of Existing Commercial Chemical Substances (EINECS) as well as new notifications on the European List of Notified Chemical Substances (ELINCS), the No-Longer Polymers List that was prepared by the EEC in accordance with the 7th Amendment of Directive 92/32/EEC, and the Canadian Domesticd Substances and Non-Domestic Substances Lists (DSL/NDSL), the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS), and the Philippines Inventory of Chemicals and Chemical Substances (PICCS). The Korean Existing Chemicals List (ECL) is included with chemical names and designations of Toxic Chemicals and/or Specified Toxic Chemicals. CHEMLIST also contains the list of Existing and New Chemical Substances (ENCS) promulgated by the Kashin Act of Japan, which regulates chemical substances that are either manufactured or imported in Japan. The file includes two lists of chemicals regulated in Switzerland, Giftliste 1 (List of Toxic Substances 1) and the INVENTORY of Notified New Substances in Accordance with the Ordinance on Substances. CHEMLIST contains the list of Toxic Chemical Substances that is regulated under the Taiwan Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act of 1986. The 2001 proposed list of chemical substances that is to be regulated under the Israel Hazardous Substances Law and Regulations List is included. CHEMLIST includes substances subject to regulation under Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA, Sections 110 and 313), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and Regulations List is included. CHEMLIST includes substances subject to regulation under Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA, Sections 110 and 313), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as well as U.S. regulatory lists, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Highly Hazardous Chemicals List, lists of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and some U.S. state lists. High Production Volume Chemical Lists from Australia, International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United States, and the German Water Hazard Class Substance List are included.
The records contain substance identity information, inventory status, source of information, and summaries of regulatory activity, reports, and other compliance information.
CAS has also created a multidatabase product called TOXCENTER
(Toxicology Center). It is a bibliographic database
that covers the pharmacological, biochemical, physiological, and
toxicological effects of drugs and other chemicals.
TOXCENTER is composed of the data from 18 other STN files, including:
The records in the file contain bibliographic data, abstracts, indexing
terms, chemical names, and CAS Registry Numbers.
- BIOSIS (Biological Abstracts): 1969 to the present
- CAplus (Chemical Abstracts): 1947 to the present
- IPA (International Pharmaceutical Abstracts): 1970 to the present
- MEDLINE: 1958 to the present
MDL incorporates in the Beilstein database a field for phamacological data
that includes much relevant information. For example, the isatin
record (BRN 383659) has information on MAO-inhibiting activity, acute
toxicity, and other biological activity of the substance. Bear in mind
that Beilstein should not be considered a comprehensive source of data,
since such information began to be added to the Beilstein database only in
The EcoPharm module
is an add-on to CrossFire. EcoPharm's
pharmacological and toxicological data focus on:
One of the first integrated, structure-searchable
systems, this database had its roots in the old Chemical Information System, a
joint project of the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental
Protection Agency. The current database is a for-fee product, available from
NISC, the National Information Services Corporation.
CIS includes databases in the following areas:
- human and mammalian
toxicology, drug treatment, pharmaceutical and biological chemistry
- ecological data concerned with effects of chemicals on various
ecosystems, their environmental fate and potential for accumulation as
well as health threat in the environment.
- Chemical/Physical properties
- Site Assessment
- Toxicity & Carcinogenicity
- HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials)
Hazardous materials are classified as toxic, corrosive, ignitable,
or reactive. They can be liquid, solid, or gas.
The EPA maintains a Substance Registry
System to assist in locating chemical and biological substances whose properties make them
of concern to the EPA. Chemicals are identified by a Chemical Abstracts
Service Registry Number (CASRN) or if not available, an EPA Chemical
Identifier (EPA ID), a systematic name (generally the CAS 9th Collective
Index Name), a molecular formula, a molecular weight, former CASRN references,
synonyms, and information about regulations, EPA data systems, and other
sources that list the chemical.
Other resources at EPA include:
The gateway to most US federal government sources now is
FirstGov. Environment, Energy, and Agriculture is one of the main categories that citizens can
choose at this site.
The Royal Society of Chemistry has produced since 1981 a bibliographic database
called the Chemical Safety NewsBase (CSNB). It covers health and safety hazards
of chemicals in relevant industries. There are many other sources
in which to find chemical safety, toxicological, or environmental
information. Examples are specialized abstracting services such as
Water Resources Abstracts, publications from organizations such as the
National Fire Protection Association or the American Chemical Society, and the
many sources available from governmental agencies such as the Centers
for Disease Control or the Environmental Protection Agency, not to mention a
wealth of publications in these areas by commercial publishers, such as
Lewis' Dictionary of Toxicology.
- A national information system that provides a single point of access to
data extracted from seven major EPA databases.
- Terminology Reference System -
Environmental Terms and Definitions,
contains collections of environmental terms and definitions from a variety
of sources, and can be searched by keyword, information resource, and
Link to printed sources
Link to Internet
Return to C471