Re: MSDS sheets and the Curse of Schiff

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From:"J. A. Kiernan" <> (by way of histonet)
To:histonet <>
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On Wed, 7 Oct 1998
rande_kline/emi/ wrote:

>        Yes, it's true,  Schiff's reagent is considered a non-hazardous
>        reagent in regards to fire, waste, and reactivity, but it is a
>        suspected carcinogen.  Basic fuschin is the culprit.  If you
>        have a U.S. MSDS it may be listed under " Potential Health
>        Effects. "

    This is just what I was getting at in my earlier
    message. Schiff's reagent does not contain any
    basic fuchsine. It does contain and release
    sulphur dioxide, which is hazardous at high
    concentrations, but this is not mentioned in the
    MSDS sheet.

    From the MSDS writer's point of view,
    Schiff probably should be considered a fire
    hazard. There would be some pretty nasty fumes
    if several gallons of Schiff were released and
    heated up in a fire. These guardians of the
    public safety tell us that we must wear
    protective clothing and respirators if 1 mg
    of protein in 1 ml of an antibody solution
    should somehow catch fire!

   The simple facts are that: (a) Schiff's reagent
   in realistic amounts is not a dangerous chemical
   (though it can make coloured stains that resist
   washing). (b) The MSDS for Schiff is useless
   because it has obviously been written by someone
   who doesn't know any elementary chemistry and
   thinks it's a mixture, not a compound.
   (c) MSDS sheets in general are full of irrelevant
   and ignorant claptrap. Anyone trying to get
   useful information from one in an emergency
   would probably asphyxiate, dissolve in the
   acid, or spontaneously combust before reaching
   the bottom of the first page. (d) MSDS sheets
   have a minor use in that they sometimes reveal
   the contents of trade-named materials: information
   that often cannot be found on bottle labels.

 John A. Kiernan,
 Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology,
 The University of Western Ontario,
 LONDON,  Canada  N6A 5C1

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