Safety Data Sheets: The ‘Glue’ That Holds Chemical Safety Processes Together

Safety Data Sheets: The ‘Glue’ That Holds Chemical Safety Processes Together

By | February 11, 2021

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of how a TikTok influencer said she used Gorilla Glue spray as a way to keep her hair in place instead of using a more-traditional product like hairspray.

Things didn’t turn out well. The strong adhesive spray is meant for projects that use fabric, paper, wood and metal; there’s nothing in the product FAQs that says it can be used to keep hair in place.

After her hair was stuck in the same position for about a month and she washed it “15 times” to no avail, the woman was forced to seek medical attention to help get the glue out of her hair. In an interview with a Canadian radio station, she explained how painful the process was of removing the glue with nail polish remover and saline because her hair “started to burn.” Eventually she said that she stopped the lengthy process of having medical professionals remove the glue, and she tried to do it herself from home with the help of her family. To no avail.

At the time of this writing, reports say that the Louisiana woman was headed to California to see a plastic surgeon, who said he can help her get the glue out of her hair in a procedure that could take two or three days. We sincerely hope things work out for her.

Update: A plastic surgeon was able to remove the glue from the woman’s hair.

While this was a consumer-related incident, we do see chemical-related incidents in industry, too. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for one, tracks these incidents. There were 24 chemical-related incidents in 2019 and 2020 alone as well as 13 chemical exposure incidents over that same time frame. And according to the World Health Organization’s European Union office website, there were 20 deaths and 70 injuries reported related to chemical incidents since 2010, which caused millions of euros in damage to property and the environment.

An SDS is no different than a warning label that you’d find on a consumer package.

We are not comparing these industrial accidents to what took place in the Gorilla Glue incident, but it does bring to light the importance of chemical safety—and that starts with reading and understanding the information presented in Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).

An SDS is no different than a warning label that you’d find on a consumer package. The SDS for Gorilla Glue spray adhesive, for example, specifically says the product “causes skin irritation” and “wash hands, forearms, and other exposed areas thoroughly after handling.” Does it specifically say not to use the product on your hair? No, but the SDS also recommends using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as protective clothing, safety glasses and safety gloves, and that users should ensure adequate ventilation, “especially in confined areas,” so we’re not sure where the disconnect could have been.

In a written statement, the company said, “We are aware of the situation and we are very sorry to hear about the unfortunate incident. … This is a unique situation because this product is not indicated for use in or on hair as it is considered permanent.”

As we can see from Gorilla Glue’s SDS, there is a lot of information that needs to be collected to produce appropriate warnings and uses for all the substances that make up a product. And even though warning labels can become white noise to consumers who are inundated with them, that does not in any way eliminate their importance or the need for companies to produce them efficiently and accurately.

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The whole process of creating an SDS can be quite complex actually. Even at companies that have an in-house team, competing business priorities can complicate the situation. For example, when a company expands into a new market or acquires a company, there could be different regulatory requirements that need to be listed on SDSs in those new geographies. And the SDSs might need to be produced in any number of different languages as well.

Managing the process manually can be a sticky situation for companies that hope to stay in compliance. Automation, on the other hand, can standardize and simplify the whole SDS process and help companies take total control of their Product Stewardship processes to make the entire organization safer, more sustainable and more productive.

After all, the SDS is the glue that holds that all together when it comes to chemical substances—hazardous or otherwise.

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