I work with a lab occasionally and get asked often if a chemical is safe to breathe, how hazardous is it if it lands on skin, etc. For the most part, I'll try to go to an SDS and look it up. The pictograms and diamond are what I search for, so I try to give a general answer based on that. I'm never entirely confident in what I suggest, though.

We had a lab supervisor who could tell us something like, "You don't want that on your skin for a long time, but if it falls on you, don't worry about it too much, just wash your hands thoroughly when you can." I'd like to be able to give answers like that without going over the top.

Do you have any suggestions, or could you point me to some other sources that go more in depth?

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    $\begingroup$ If you find SDS too excessive or vague, refer to R/S statements or H/P statements. It doesn't get any more general or strict than that. By the way, you can find more or less complete lists for different languages in the mhchem manual. $\endgroup$ – andselisk Jan 9 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ Your instructor is right, for the huge majority of the chemicals. But not for all. There exist a couple of chemicals where you must react immediately if a drop touches your skin. I am thinking of hydrogen peroxide for example : a tiny droplet may slowly but deeply destroy your skin, up to the blood. $\endgroup$ – Maurice Jan 9 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ @andselisk +1 You should edit/upgrade that comment to an answer. Without getting a chemistry degree, having years of lab experience, and reading constantly to keep up to date, using something like the GHS to guide you is about the best most people can do. $\endgroup$ – Gwyn Jan 10 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ This is what Industrial Hygiene folks are used for. Use them, and if the chemistry lab doesn't have access to one I would not work there. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Jan 11 at 22:14

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