Coronavirus chemicals update, 26th July 2021

Dear Friend,

Happy Monday!

It’s Day 490 of Semi-Lockdown, and the weather is still relatively cool for us, which is a relief.

I’ve come down with flu type symptoms over the weekend, which Mike thinks is a reaction to antibiotics I’ve been prescribed, although we can’t rule out the dreaded Coronavirus. I’ve just taken the last antibiotic this morning (it’s only a 3-day course), so if the symptoms clear up quickly, Mike will probably be proved right.

As I’m under the weather, rather than the usual newsletter for a Monday, I’m going to give you the feedback from the ethical problem about safety data sheets I posed on Friday, as we have had a lot of thoughtful responses.

The question was whether you would supply a customer with an up to date copy of a Safety Data Sheet for a couple of products which had been purchased from them several years ago, as one of our readers had been refused this courtesy by a UK distributor on the grounds that they had not bought the products within the last 12 months.

Adam Hunniford, PIP Chemicals

A note on the sds topic… The Irish HSA have been pushing my customers. If the product is sold online, the sds should be available online. Not sure this is strictly required but HSA in Ireland aren’t letting it go!

Peter Godfrey, Cambridge Environmental Assessments

I have come across this on odd occasions and this sounds like a computer says no!

The solution I have found, is to make contact with a UK based regulatory person and point out the duty of care requirements under the HSE legislation.


Purchasing has nothing to do with the supply of an SDS upon request. A HSE inspector would take issue with a commercial decision overriding the issue of a SDS.

Julian Sarkar, Zanos

On the SDS question, we have found that sometimes when we supplied product historically, lost the business for that product, the customer fishes for information where the new supplier / competitor is not supplying complete / accurate SDS information.

We look at these requests on a case by case basis –

  • How long ago was the supply?
  • How important is the customer?
  • Do they just appear to be using us to get details that they want to get without paying / proper checking.
  • Are they looking to update their records from a statutory viewpoint and feel that we will supply the details / quickly?

We usually ask them what volume of product they need and over what time – i.e. convert the request into a product enquiry.

We know that we have been used as an information source – we aim to respond more rapidly than large organisations.

Tracey Ferry, Boud Minerals

Writing in response to your question about SDS, my answer is… Yes! At Boud Minerals we’re always happy to provide SDSs when a customer requests one. For our mineral products they’re available to download from our website, the customer just has to register for an account which is really quick and easy to do. For our Boud Microspheres products, which I look after, in addition to sending SDSs when requested, I send the latest version to a customer after we’ve acknowledged their order (when I ping them a quick note to say thank you for their order), and also email over the SDS(s) prior to despatching any samples.

Steve Marks, Airedale Chemicals

I’ll put my 2p in for your ethical question.

I wouldn’t refuse to supply someone an SDS just because they hadn’t bought a product in the last 12 months. We often get requests for SDS from companies disposing of old product purchased from us. I would send them a copy of the latest SDS and highlight that it may no longer match the labelling.

Just as a further ethical dilemma….. should I update the SDS? It may be a product we haven’t stocked or sold for several years. The SDS would have been correct at the time of sale but may no longer be so. Updating the SDS may take a lot of time and involve contacting suppliers.

Alison Potts, Quaker Houghton

Your ethical question is a good one. In an ideal world you are correct – we would always supply an SDS upon request. But that is a world in which a product is kept for its shelf life only, and then is disposed of, and the SDS supplier could be confident that the document would reasonably represent the product in the customers possession.

Let’s consider the real world scenario. The customer contacts you for an SDS. Your company hasn’t made the product for a few years. The product had a shelf life of 6 months. Perhaps you stopped manufacture because it contained a material which was about to become an SVHC, or appeared on an ATP with 18 months until a severe classification would apply.

You know that the last SDS on file would not be applicable to the product if manufactured ‘today’. But you probably don’t have the current Raw material SDS’ to create a new product SDS (and why would you, if you don’t manufacture it?). You have no legal obligation to provide support and this is not a current customer. Now – how would you respond to the request?

Suddenly not as clear cut.

Answering in a personal capacity (not representing my company), check your previous correspondence. Perhaps you had something on file that you prepared for customers at the time you withdrew the product advising them of likely future classification if they retained stock beyond the recommended (and supported) date. If so, provide this along with the historic SDS and advise the customer that the product is well beyond the shelf life. A smart commercial move would also be to helpfully suggest the current alternative product and possibly put them in touch with your sales team!

There is a balance here between data gathering for obsolete Raw Materials and Products and still providing safety information to downstream users.

Phil Rowley, retired but open to consulting (via LinkedIn)

Refusing to supply an SDS for a product last bought ONLY TWO years ago by an existing customer – what an excellent way to lose them.

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to this ethical dilemma, I know our client is very grateful for all of the responses.

Reasons to be cheerful

This week, I’ve chosen some clips from The Young Ones. Be warned – these are not politically correct, watch at your own risk! Today we have Cornflakes:

and Having a Baby: 


And Only Connect is back, along with University Challenge…, so it’s Quiz Night on BBC2 tonight. And it’s the semi final of Bake Off: The Professionals on Channel 4 tomorrow night:… .

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to the newsletter today. As usual, if you have anything you’d like to share, please email me and I’ll do my best to include it in the next newsletter.

I hope you and your family and friends are all safe and well, and looking forward to whatever challenges the week ahead may hold, and I’ll write to you again on Wednesday.

Kind regards,


Janet Greenwood

TT Environmental Ltd

01422 24 22 22
07900 21 21 26


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