Introduction, Know your fuel - MSDS

Introduction, Know your fuel - MSDS

What is a MSDS?

A Material Safety Data Sheet contains information for handling or working with a particular substance. MSDS's include information like the flash point, toxicity, health issues and handling procedures. As well as what to do when something goes wrong in an accident.

Who should read a MSDS?

Anyone who uses a fuel or toxic material more so than the average consumer. Which means you if you perform/interact with a fuel in any way. Also you should read the MSDS if you are a safety person for a fire performer.

Why should I read the MSDS on the fuel that I use?

To use and interact with your fuel in a safe manner you need to know things like how flammable it is, what happens if you get it on your skin, what should you do if you swallow some, what do you do if you get it in your or anyone's eye, what should you do if you spill it or swallow it, how should it be stored, how it can be safely extinguished if on fire, will/can it explode, will it give you cancer, what effects can result from long term use.

Where do I get a MSDS?

Every company that manufactures or distributes hazardous chemicals must have/provide a MSDS. The purchaser has the right to know everything about the material that they are purchasing and as such the seller must assist you in obtaining a copy of the MSDS.

If they can not provide a MSDS do not purchase the fuel

Some universities and library's may also have copies. Some can also be searched for on the Internet.

Where can I search for a particular MSDS on the Internet?

NOTE: The only way to truly know what is in your fuel is to get the MSDS from the manufacturer/supplier.

Have we got some direct links to the MSDS of the fuel you are using?

No, because there are hundreds of manufacturers of the fuels we use throughout the world and the chemical makeup/composition varies considerably even across a country as with the toxicity. MSDS's are specific to the manufacturer and can change over time. Two bottles could both be labeled as the same fuel by different manufacturers, however their properties may still vary, especially the toxicity.

Who can I trust? **

Be very careful. Say for example if the Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a particular brand of aviation-type kerosene says that it is one of the few that are 100% pure kerosene, then you might trust it if you also see the barrel it comes out of and read the labels on that barrel. Treat anything that is repackaged for retail sales (smaller than 55 gallon drums) as highly toxic. Do not take someone's words as true if they say it is safe. Always check the MSDS yourself.

Guide to terms in the MSDS

Refers to intense, short-term symptoms

In this case this is when the material enters the lungs. Chronic aspiration can lead to a range of pulmonary complications including asthma, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, and pulmonary fibrosis.

Auto ignition temperature
The lowest temperature that the material will catch fire without need of a spark or flame.

Carbon monoxide
Is a highly poisonous gas and is undetectable by humans due to its odorless, tasteless and colorless composition. Headache should be taken as a warning that a dangerous amount has been inhaled. Weakness and dizziness may be the only symptoms before unconsciousness and death. More info here

A substance that is believed to cause cancer.

Chemical pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs)
Immediate symptoms include pause in breath for more than 10 seconds, blue coloration to the skin, low blood pressure, fever, and possible wheezing.

Chemical pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
Lung injury increases significantly as the volume of aspirated material increases. The lower the pH (below 2.5) the material is the greater the risk of lung injury. This will in turn lead into pulmonary edema.

Describes the effect/s of low level exposure over a longer period.

Is an inflammation of the skin. Can be seen as a rash, broken or cracked skin, blisters, or other skin sores.

Flammability class*
The flammability of each combustible liquid is grouped into different categories depending on their flash points to quickly identify risk.
  • Class IA shall include liquids having flash points below 73°F (22.8°C) and having a boiling point below 100°F (37.8°C).
  • Class IB shall include liquids having flash points below 73°F (22.8°C) and having a boiling point at or above 100°F (37.8°C).
  • Class IC shall include liquids having flash points at or above 73°F (22.8°C) and below 100°F (37.8°C).
  • Class II liquids shall include those with flash points at or above 100°F (37.8°C) and below 140°F (60°C), except any mixture having components with flash points of 200°F (93.3°C) or higher, the volume of which make up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture.
  • Class IIIA liquids shall include those with flash points at or above 140°F (60°C) and below 200°F (93.3°C), except any mixture having components with flash points of 200°F (93.3°C), or higher, the total volume of which make up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture.
  • Class IIIB liquids shall include those with flash points at or above 200°F (93.3°C).

Flammable limits*
Is the percentage of material to air which can cause an explosion with a spark or flame present. Normally expressed as a percentage of fuel by volume.
  • Above the upper flammable limit (UFL) there is not enough oxygen/air in the vapor to burn. Also can be called the upper explosive limit (UEL).
  • Below the lower flammable limit (LFL) there is not enough fuel in the surrounding air to burn. Also can be called the lower explosive limit (LEL).

Flash point*
The flash point is the lowest temperature at which a liquid can form an ignitable mixture in air near the surface of the liquid, so the higher the flash point, the less likely the fuel is to burst into flames when it comes into contact with a flame.

Oxidation reactions usually give off lots of heat. Therefore, if a compound says "OXIDIZER", this means that it can cause other materials to burn more fiercely and dangerously.

Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
Is very dangerous if not treated immediately. This means it can kill you.

Specific Gravity
Is the ratio of the mass of the material to the mass of an equal volume of water at 4 oC (39 oF). Because specific gravity is a ratio, it is a unitless quantity. For example, the specific gravity of water at 4 oC is 1.0

The measure of a fluid's resistance to flow.

*References: US dept of Labour Flammable and combustible liquids. - 1910.106

See also Fire Safety

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