Reaching Others University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
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Hazardous Chemicals

They’re Everywhere – The most common substances used in your workplace may contain hazardous chemicals. For the most part, those hazardous chemicals are found in minute quantities. However, you should be aware of them and how to protect yourself.Substances most likely to contain hazardous chemicals are:

  • Paints and paint removers.
  • Liquid correction fluid with a solvent base (most currently used are water based).
  • Cleaning fluid, including window-cleaning fluid.
  • Cleaning products such as those used for typewriters or desktops.
  • Photocopier toner, photo developing chemicals, toners, and developers.
  • Rubber cement and other glues.

Your manager/supervisor must maintain a list of any hazardous materials in your workplace, along with their specific Material Safety Data Sheets. These items are available for your review.

You will learn more about Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) and other information sheets in the MSDS module.

What Are the Hazards?

Hazardous chemicals may be in some of the products used in our homes or offices. Chemicals generally cause two kinds of hazards, physical and health.

  • Physical hazards – risks associated with a chemical or chemicals acting on a facility. Examples include fire reactivity and risk of explosion.
  • Health hazards - risks associated with a chemical or chemicals acting on humans. Examples include skin irritation, reactions to toxins, and the effects of carcinogens.

Chemical Forms - Chemicals can take three possible forms:

  • Solids - toner powder, smoke, dusts, sawdust and fumes.
  • Liquids - rubber cement, paint thinner, solvents, mists and fuels.
  • Gases and vapors - smoke, ammonia gas, paint vapors, gasoline vapors, carbon monoxide, natural gas and propane.