OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

July 24, 2017

Dr. Burton Z. Davidson, Ph.D, P.E.
31 Chandler Ct.
Monroe Township, New Jersey 08831

Dear Dr. Davidson:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Directorate of Enforcement Programs. Your letter requested clarification on labeling and safety data sheet (SDS) requirements for solvents containing benzene under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements herein, and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. We have combined and paraphrased your questions into one question below, followed by our response.

Question: For chemical solvents that contain benzene as a known trace contaminant, what are the requirements for listing and disclosing benzene as a human carcinogen on the product’s label and SDS?

Response: The HCS requires manufacturers or importers of hazardous chemicals to ensure that each container of hazardous chemical leaving the workplace is labeled, tagged, or marked in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1). In addition, each hazardous chemical must have an SDS as required by 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(1).

Manufacturers, importers, and distributers are responsible for classifying hazardous chemicals. To determine if a mixture containing benzene is classified as a carcinogen, please refer to Appendix A.6.3 of the HCS, Classification Criteria for Mixtures. A mixture is classified as a carcinogen when at least one ingredient in the mixture is a Category 1 or Category 2 carcinogen and is present in the mixture at a concentration of greater than or equal to 0.1%. Because benzene is a Category 1 carcinogen (i.e., a known or presumed human carcinogen), a mixture containing benzene at a concentration greater than or equal to 0.1% would be classified as a Category 1 carcinogen and require appropriate hazard information on the product’s label and SDS. In addition, if benzene is present in the mixture at a concentration below 0.1%, but there is evidence that it presents a health hazard at that lower concentration, the mixture shall be assumed to present the same hazard, and have the appropriate label and SDS. For more information on classifying carcinogens, please consult OSHA’s Hazard Classification Guidance, available at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3844.pdf.

Also note, mixtures containing benzene might be classified as other types of health or physical hazards in addition to carcinogenicity. Where this is the case, the product’s label and SDS would need to contain appropriate hazard information about those hazards as well.

The requirements for labels on shipped containers of hazardous chemicals are found in 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1). Labels must include the product identifier; signal word; hazard statement(s); pictogram(s); precautionary statement(s); and the name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party. Please consult 29 CFR 1910.1200 Appendix C.4.9, Carcinogenicity, to learn the appropriate hazard category, signal word, hazard statement, precautionary statements, and pictogram for mixtures classified as carcinogens. The pictogram for carcinogens is the “health hazard” pictogram depicting a human head and shoulders, not the skull-and-crossbones.

Benzene must be disclosed on the SDS as a carcinogenic ingredient if it meets the above mentioned criteria. Please see 29 CFR 1910.1200 Appendix D for information about the different sections of an SDS and what is required in each section. The sections of the SDS that would include information on benzene are Section 2 - Hazard(s) identification, Section 3 - Composition/information on ingredients, Section 7 - Handling and storage, Section 8 - Exposure controls/personal protection, Section 9 - Physical and chemical properties, Section 10- Stability and reactivity, and Section 11 - Toxicological information.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA’s requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2190.



Amanda Edens, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs