The best and most reliable way to judge the safety and label claims of any product is to examine the Safety Data Sheet. Federal law requires all manufactures to produce a safety data sheet that provides specific information for the end consumer. They are easy to find. Most manufacturers have them on their own web site. Google SDS and several free sites will display. Type the name of the product in the site search engine and the SDS sheet will appear. Not every site has every SDS sheet. Some SDS sheets are written by a third party but since they are required, they are usually easy to find. All retailers must be able to supply the end user with a SDS upon request.
This is important because what is often described on the packaging label is NOT CONSISTENT with what is on the SDS. Many labels use the words green, environmentally friendly, biodegradable, natural, safe, etc. to describe their product. By reading the SDS you will quickly see how accurate those statements are. This is the only reliable way to make an informed decision on what you feel is beneficial for the environment, your boat and passengers.
The SDS is broken into several sections. The order changes between products but the headings are easily identifiable.
Sections 2, 4, 6 and 13 give some critical information.
Section 1 Identification: who makes it and for what purpose
Section 2 Hazards identifications. What harm could it possibly do?
Section 3 Composition, ingredients, what is it made of.
Section 4 First aid measures. This is important to know. What treatment is recommended if it gets on a person. There are medical precautions listed here that will not be on the label.
Section 5 Fire fighting measures. Some popular tank treatments have a low combustion point or are actual fire accelerants. Seriously, we were shocked too.
Section 6 Accidental release measures. Most all recommend personal breathing and protection gear. That is standard for everything. The interesting section here is the containment and clean up instructions. Where is it safe to put it? Surprisingly many products may NOT BE flushed into a sewer system even though they are marketed for that purpose.
Section 7 Handling and Storage Under what conditions is it safe to store.
Section 8 Exposure controls/Personal Protection Look for any extra ordinary personal protection measures
Section 9 Physical and Chemical Properties. This tells you what it should look like or smell like.
Section 10 Stability and Reactivity. This section explains how safe it is when it is combined with other chemicals. Note what conditions should be avoided if any. Note Incompatible materials. Here you may find out why it should be kept away from other products.
Section 11 Toxicological information. Is it toxic? N/A means not applicable IE, no.
Section 12 Ecological information. Note here if it is toxic or can accumulate in the environment. Two of the most popular products are extremely toxic. One has serious bio accumulative potential.
Section 13 Disposal Considerations. Typical answer here is to dispose of waste according to official federal, state, and local regulations. Many contain a warning to this effect: avoid dispersal of spilled material and runoff and contact with soil, waterways, drains and sewers. Inform the relevant authorities if the product has caused environmental pollution, (sewers, waterways, soil or air).
Section 14 Transport information. Is it safe for land, air or waterway transport?
Section 15 Regulatory information. Any specific environmental or legislation restrictions.