Last reviewed 21 June 2022

In this two-part feature, Caroline Raine discusses how the Navigate-Chemicals Database can be used as a companion tool for authoring Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). Part 1 of this article is an updated version of the requirements for sections within the SDS and where within the database the information may be sourced.


Launched in 2006, the Navigate-Chemicals Database consists of 110,000 substances and dangerous goods. Data found in the chemical database includes general information, classification and labelling information, exposure and health effects, environmental effects, and carriage, handling and emergency response information. The database is reviewed and updated monthly, and each update means that new substances are added and existing data is reviewed.


Provision for SDSs was first included in the original 88/379/EEC Dangerous Preparations Directive (with three years provided for such a system to be developed). The original EU SDS requirements were revoked and replaced by the SDS requirements of REACH, as substantially amended by Regulation (EU) 2010/453 along with minor changes in 2020/878. These have also been known, especially in the USA, as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDs). Under the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), as “implemented” in the USA as the Hazard Communication Standard 2012 (HCS2012 or HAZCOM 2012), and REACH, the term “Safety Data Sheet” is used.

An SDS is a 16-section document with 48 associated sub-headings that provides information on a substance or mixture to enable users to carry out COSHH, DSEAR and environmental risk assessments. Due to the fact that users take the information from within the SDS to make that risk assessment, it is important to ensure that the information within the SDS is accurate and detailed. Typically, users are primarily interested in the hazards section, information on handling, storage and emergency measures in case of accident.

An SDS should be supplied if:

  • a substance or mixture meets the criteria for classification as hazardous according to CLP

  • a substance is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB), according to the criteria given in Annex XIII of REACH

  • a substance is included in the candidate list for eventual authorisation according to Article 59 (1) of REACH for any other reasons.

Under certain conditions some mixtures which do not meet the criteria for classification as hazardous according to CLP also require an SDS.

A report (REF-2) published by the ECHA-run Enforcement Forum stated that 52% of the inspected SDSs showed deficiencies. The quality of SDSs needs to improve and this article will aim to show how Navigate-Chemicals can assist.

This article covers sections 2, 3, 9, 11, 12 and 14, the most significant sections of the SDS while the remaining sections will be discussed in Part 2. Information will be provided on what data should be included in each section of the SDS, how that information may be retrieved from the Navigate-Chemicals Database, and where the data comes from.

Section 2 — Hazard identification

Within s.2 of the SDS, the classification of the substance or mixture and a brief description of the hazards must be provided. Since June 2015, only the CLP classifications must be shown in the SDS as CHIP is now effectively revoked. Labelling information should also be shown. It is important to distinguish between hazardous/non-hazardous mixtures and highlight the most important adverse effects from use and possible misuses. Finally, other hazards not resulting from classification but which contribute to the overall hazards should be included.

  • Classification of the substance or mixture.

  • Label elements.

  • Other hazards.

For many substances, the Navigate-Chemicals Database will show the EU CLP partially-harmonised classification and labelling (CLH) entries. These are taken from Annex VI of CLP Regulation 1272/2008 where any amendments are of course included in the database. The database also shows the CHIP classifications as although CHIP is no longer valid the labelling may still be seen for many years to come.


Precautionary (P) label statements are not listed in Annex VI and will have to be selected by the classifier.

Information shall be provided on whether the substance or mixture meets the criteria for persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic or very persistent and very bioaccumulative in accordance with Annex XIII, whether the substance was included in the list established in accordance with Article 59(1) for having endocrine disrupting properties, and whether the substance is a substance identified as having endocrine disrupting properties in accordance with the criteria set out in Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/21003 or Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/6054.

Section 3 — Composition on ingredients

Within s.3, the hazards of the components (usually substances) of the mixture should be identified. A general description of components and concentrations is helpful and the classification should be stated. For many substances likely to be in mixtures, the Navigate-Chemicals Database will provide the partial CLHs under CLP (see above).

For mixtures classified as hazardous, the following should be indicated.

  • Substances presenting a health or environmental hazard

  • A substance with community work exposure limits.

  • Substances that are Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) and very Persistent and very Bioaccumulative (vPvB).

For mixtures not classified as hazardous, all hazardous components above certain concentration limits still need to be indicated.

Section 3.1 — for substances — the specific concentration limit, the M-factor and the acute toxicity estimate for substances included in Part 3 of Annex VI to Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 or determined in accordance with Annex I to that Regulation shall be indicated, if available.

If the substance is registered and it covers a nanoform, the particle characteristics that specify the nanoform, as described in Annex VI, shall be indicated. If the substance is not registered, but the safety data sheet covers nanoforms, the particle characteristics of which have impact on the safety of the substance, those characteristics shall be indicated.

Section 9 — Physical and chemical properties

Empirical data relating to the substance or mixture should be included in section 9 of the SDS. The information in this section should be consistent with the information provided during a REACH registration. General chemical information, appearance, odour, important health, safety and environmental information and any other relevant details should be included. The ECHA Guidance document on a SDS lists the following properties that should be listed (if relevant and data is available):

  1. physical state

  2. colour

  3. odour

  4. melting point/freezing point

  5. boiling point or initial boiling point and boiling range

  6. flammability

  7. lower and upper explosion limit

  8. flash point

  9. auto-ignition temperature

  10. decomposition temperature

  11. pH

  12. kinematic viscosity

  13. vapour density

  14. solubility

  15. partition coefficient n-octanol/water (log value)

  16. vapour pressure

  17. density and/or relative density

  18. relative vapour density

  19. particle characteristics.

The Navigate-Chemicals Database lists physical properties data where it is available. The data is presented in the General Information section and provides information on physical description and uses, melting and boiling points, relative and vapour densities, water solubility, octanol/water partition coefficient, Henry’s law constant, adsorption coefficient and the flash point.

The data included in the database is taken sources including disseminated REACH dossiers on the ECHA website, Toxnet/HSDB and Bretherick’s Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards.

There are requirements within section 9.2 to add certain properties if they are relevant for safe use. They include:

  1. explosives

  2. flammable gases

  3. aerosols

  4. oxidising gases

  5. gases under pressure

  6. flammable liquids

  7. flammable solids

  8. self-reactive substances and mixtures

  9. pyrophoric liquids

  10. pyrophoric solids

  11. self-heating substances and mixtures

  12. substances and mixtures, which emit flammable gases in contact with water

  13. oxidising liquids

  14. oxidising solids

  15. organic peroxides

  16. corrosive to metals

  17. desensitised explosives.

And in section 9.2.2 other safety considerations.

Properties, safety characteristics and test results listed below may be useful to indicate as regards a substance or a mixture:

  1. mechanical sensitivity

  2. self-accelerating polymerisation temperature

  3. formation of explosible dust/air mixtures

  4. acid/alkaline reserve

  5. evaporation rate

  6. miscibility

  7. conductivity

  8. corrosiveness

  9. gas group

  10. redox potential

  11. radical formation potential

  12. photocatalytic properties.

Section 11 — Toxicological information

This section requires the need for concise, complete and comprehensible information of the various toxicological effects when the user comes into contact with the material.

Information to include is as follows.

  • Description of immediate and delayed effects on health following short and long-term exposure.

  • Information on the four different routes of exposure and the symptoms associated with them.

  • Test data, where available.

The Navigate-Chemicals Database lists the LD50 (oral), LD50 (dermal) and LC50 (inhalation) for substances (where available), although perhaps surprisingly, under the Environmental Effects section. In the Exposure and Health Effects section other details of the medical effects, toxicity, irritancy and any long-term effects of a substance can be found. Information is given on the four possible routes of entry into the body, namely by ingestion, the skin, the eyes and the respiratory tract. Systemic effects are also listed.

Carcinogenicity data is also detailed within Exposure and Health Effects; classifications from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); the German MAK Commission (MAK); the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) are all included.

Endocrine disrupting properties must also be included.

Section 12 — Ecological information

Section 12 should describe all possible effects, behaviour and environmental fate of the substance or preparation with air, water, and/or soil.

This section should include:

  • toxicity and ecotoxity data

  • persistence and degradability

  • bioaccumulative potential

  • mobility in soil

  • results of a PBT, vPvB assessment

  • other adverse effects.

Navigate-Chemicals Database lists the LC50 (fish) over 96 hours, EC50 (crustacean) over 48 hours and EC50 (algae) over 72 or 96 hours as well as long-term toxicity data, eg No Observed Effect Levels (NOEL) for fish, crustaceans or algae over days. The bioaccumulation potential is defined as low, moderate or high and is determined from the partition coefficient between octanol and water (in the absence of experimental data). While the degradation or persistence is defined as rapid, moderate, slow or very slow depending upon the half-life.

Endocrine disrupting properties must also be included.

Section 14 — Transport information

Section 14 requires all the transport information on the substance or mixture. Special precautions the user needs to be aware of in terms of transport must be shown in this section along with transport information for each modal regulation, namely road (ADR), rail (RID) sea (IMDG) and air (IATA).

The information for each mode should include:

  • UN Number (if applicable)

  • Proper Shipping Name

  • environmental hazards

  • packing group

  • environmental hazards

  • whether it is a marine pollutant

  • special precautions for the user

  • maritime transport in bulk according to IMO instruments

  • any other relevant information.

Navigate-Chemicals Database collates a significant amount of information from the UN Model Regulations, ADR and the IMDG Code. The Proper Shipping Name (PSN) and description is given along with the UN Number and class. Alternative names by which the chemical may be known (but which are not valid PSNs) are also listed.

Information is provided on ADR carriage including the ADR labels, packing groups and if there are any special provisions, these are shown along with links to their meanings. Both limited quantities and excepted quantities are detailed and packaging instructions and mixed packaging provisions are provided, again with links to their meanings.

The database also shows information on portable tanks and bulk containers highlighting the instructions and special provisions. In addition, the ADR Tank codes are available.

Transport categories are shown along with the maximum total quantity per transport unit, and tunnel restriction codes are given. If passage is forbidden, it is stated along with which categories of tunnels through which transport is forbidden.

Finally, special provisions for carriage, loading, unloading and handling and operation are shown.

Under other data, the Hazard Identification Number (HIN) and the Emergency Action Code (EAC) are displayed. If the substance is a marine pollutant, it is also listed here.

For the IMDG Code, if the substance is a specifically listed marine pollutant, it is listed here. Otherwise (and normally), this must be a self-classification, but the need for this should be clear from the classification in section 2. The Navigate-Chemicals Database also provides the IMDG Emergency Schedule (EmS) references.

Other environmental effects

The Environmental Effects section in Navigate-Chemicals Database also provides a wealth of other environmental information; air, water, soil and groundwater pollution factors are all listed. The data comes from the Environmental Protection Act (EPA); the World Health Organization (WHO); the New Dutch list; the Drinking Water Standards and the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations. Substances that are banned, controlled, or on priority lists for water pollution are available with specific information on the lists the substance appears on. Other data includes the global warming potential (GWP), odour thresholds, ozone depletion potential (ODP), photochemical ozone creation potential (POCP) and environmental assessment levels.

Other useful information contained within the database

As well as providing the wealth of information already discussed, the Navigate-Chemicals Database also provides useful information on substances that may have further restrictions. The database shows whether the substance is a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC), on the authorisation or candidate list and if the substance is subject to a restriction under REACH.

Links are provided to substances that have been registered with ECHA.

For each substance where it is available the IUPAC name, CAS number and EC number are shown. Synonyms for each substance are listed and the structure and molecular and/or structural formula is provided.

The database was recently updated to include the Simplified Molecular-Input Line-Entry System or SMILES for substances, along with the IUPAC International Chemical Identifiers Std.InChI and Std.InChIKey.

Other databases

Croner-i Chem-Bank provides data from the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) (formerly known as the Toxic Substances List), the Hazardous Substances Database (HSDB), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Oil and Hazardous Materials Technical Assistance Data System (OHMTADS) and LINKS.

LINKS connects to the following information.

  • CAMEO (Online library of data sheets containing response-related information and recommendations for hazardous materials — from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Response and Restoration in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Emergency Management and the US Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center).

  • CCID (New Zealand Chemical Classification and Information Database).

  • ERG2012 The US Office of Hazardous Material Safety’s Emergency Response Guide.

  • GESTIS (Hazardous Substances Database of the German Social Accident Insurance).

  • ICSC (International Chemical Safety Cards).

  • IPCS EHC (International Programme on Chemical Safety, Environmental Health Criteria).

  • IPCS PDS (International Programme on Chemical Safety, Pesticide Data Sheets).

  • IPCS CICADS (International Programme on Chemical Safety, Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents).

  • IRIS (US Environmental Protection Agency's Integrated Risk Information System).

  • NJHSFS (New Jersey Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets).

  • NPG — The NIOSH [US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health] Pocket Guide.