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Lab safety: Search strategies

Provides chemical safety information resources and search strategies for students, faculty, and staff working in a lab.

Search strategies to find safety information

This page of the Lab Safety guide contains search strategies and tips for finding chemical safety information.  General search tips:

  • A CAS Registry Number, a unique identifier for a substance, enables you to do a more precise and comprehensive search than is possible if you are searching by chemical name.   
  • While best efforts are made to publish accurate information, it is possible for information compiled to have typographical errors, be out-of-date, or collected under different experimental conditions. For that reason, it is important to search multiple resources to confirm safety information (e.g. 3 sources).
  • Chemical safety information resources often contain information about a single substance, not how that substance reacts with other substances.  Use resources that contain reactivity information or do a reaction search to learn more about experimental conditions.

Find chemical safety and physical property data

  • Search the Stanford University's Chemical Safety Database first because it contains property information based on the physical state (gas, liquid, solid) and concentration level.  
    • Copy the CAS Registry Number (CAS RN) so that you can use it as a search term in other databases. 
  • Next, search Safety Data Sheets database by CAS RN and locate the safety data sheet produced by your manufacturer/supplier. 
    • If there is more than on SDS by the same manufacturer for your compound, compare the dates the SDS was published and select the most recent version.
    • Because SDS sheets include limited information, you should always search other resources before doing laboratory work.
  • Use PubChem which aggregates safety information in Laboratory Chemical Safety Summary (LCSS) Datasheets for a compound.
    • Search PubChem by CAS RN. 
    • Click on compound name in search results to view the full record and view the type of data available (e.g. spectral diagrams).
    • Click on LCSS link in the compound record to view chemical safety data compiled for a compound.  Information includes data plus the source of the information. For LCSS data citing the 4th edition of Bretherick's Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards, consult the 8th edition of Bretherick's to view new information compiled about that compound.
  • Options for searching multiple resources at one time:
    • Knovel has several thousand handbooks, including many safety resources.   Search results take you directly to the page where you compound is located in a book.
      • If your compound is listed in Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens, the information compiled is several pages long so is a great resource to consult.
    • CHEMnetBASE data is highly curated (high quality control) and you are able to search multiple chemical dictionaries plus the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics at one time. 
    • DeepResearch is a search tool enables you to search multiple science and engineering resources at one time, including full-text resources. Included are many chemical safety sources such as Bretherick's, CCOHS, and CAMEO.  See the Libraries' page on DeepResearch for more information about how it works.
  • In-depth information sources:
    • Reaxys has extensive physical property information about compounds.  Multiple values are listed for property data plus a link to references if you want to find more information about the experimental conditions.
    • SciFinder-n has both experimental and predicted property data for a compound that includes high quality spectral diagrams.  Literature references are also included.

A-Z list of resources used in search strategies