MSDS MGT: Is Illinois’ New Chemical Law Absurd?

A new Illinois law restricting the purchase or acquisition of corrosive or caustic acid – such as drain cleaners – quietly went into effect in Illinois on January 1, 2012. According to an article on by Brian Wellner, the law was unanimously passed by the General Assembly and signed into law on Aug. 21, 2011.

The law is aimed at folks purchasing substances regulated by the Federal Caustic Poison Act, 16 CFR 1500.129, with labels that have the words “causes severe burns.” That exact wording is the key to triggering compliance obligations.

According to the law, anyone looking to purchase such substances is required to provide the seller with a government issued ID with their name, photo and date of birth. Additionally, the seller is required to keep a log documenting the name, address, date/time and of the transaction as well as information about the items purchased.

Businesses that violate the new standard face fines of up to $150 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1500 for the third offense in a 12 month window.

Wellner’s article quotes several business owners, primarily in the hardware industry, who are shaking their collective heads over the wisdom of the new law. The driving force behind the law were a couple of incidents in the past year where drain cleaner was used as a weapon and thrown on victims. A horrific crime for sure, yet many folks wonder if Illinois has overreached in its response.

The law in its current form puts a massive burden on retail business owners to police the checkout line, not unlike recent laws restricting the sale of certain cold medicines, and some wonder if it’s the right priority for the State given the severe budget crisis happening in Illinois. Others wonder if it calls more attention to a crime, and potential weapon, that might otherwise remain under the radar.

Please tell us what you think. Is this law good for Illinois?