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Results of Survey Regarding the First Aid Information
The following information is not a new standard or regulation, creates no new legal obligation, and is not intended to describe compliance policy.

The Office of Science and Technology Assessment (OSTA) directed a small scale review of several MSDSs from different manufacturers to evaluate the completeness and accuracy of the first aid information. The review, which included survey responses from poison control centers, revealed that first aid information is deficient on some MSDSs. The information below (1) outlines elements that are useful in the first aid section, (2) provides several indicators that may help identify when further scrutiny of the information is warranted, and (3) lists some resources for information on industrial chemicals.

The findings revealed that the following first aid information may be helpful:
  • Information for each route of exposure - inhalation, dermal, ingestion, and, if appropriate, eye exposure;
  • Information that indicates when to provide treatment, gives the order in which treatment is to be carried out, and specifies the appropriate level of treatment depending on the state of the individual, symptoms, the route of exposure, and severity of exposure;
  • Information that states when it is important to contact emergency help or go to the hospital emergency room (i.e., for what exposure scenario or physical state of the individual);
  • Information that gives specific instructions; for example, if an antidote is recommended, it would be helpful if the guideline stated when the antidote should be administered; if clothing may be contaminated, what should be done with the garments; and, if medical attention might be needed, when should it be sought;
  • Information about possible delayed symptoms and health effects; and
  • Information about the type of protection needed for emergency responders.
First aid statements should be brief and clear so that first aid treatment is not delayed.

The following may serve as indicators as to when the accuracy and completeness of the MSDS could be improved:
  • Information does not provide enough detail on the chemical;
  • Information is vague;
  • Information is provided for implausible routes of exposure (such as dermal or ingestion exposure for carbon monoxide);
  • Information from a manufacturer is the same for chemicals with different properties;
  • Information on providing oxygen is not complete (Administering oxygen can be harmful if it is administered improperly or in the wrong circumstances);
  • Information does not address varying degrees of exposure;
  • Information recommends the neutralization of exposure with acids or bases, when such may not be advisable first aid treatment for a particular chemical exposure; and
  • Information advises inducement of vomiting for ingestion exposure, which is inadvisable for most occupational chemical ingestions.

For information from poison control centers, you may call your local poison control center.

The following is a list of first aid references that were used for this review:
  • Ellenborn and Barceleaux, Medical Toxicology. 2nd edition. Williams and Wilkins, 1997.
  • Goldfrank, et. al. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. 6th edition. Appelton and Lang, 1998.
  • Haddad, Shannon and Winchester. Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 3rd edition. W.B. Saunders, 1998.
  • Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSB). National Library of Medicine (NLM). Provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed toxicology data for about 5,000 chemicals.
  • "Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents." Medical Management Guidelines for Acute Chemical Exposures 111. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
  • Sullivan and Kreiger. Hazardous Materials Toxicology, Chemical Principals of Environmental Health. Williams and Wilkins, 1992.
Micromedex Inc., Poisindex Systems - This is a proprietary document that poison control centers and hospitals rely on. It is not available in public libraries, including the National Library of Medicine.