The European chemicals industry manufactures and uses a large number of different chemical products. 90-95% of all chemicals on the European market are preparations - i.e. mixtures of chemical substances. They include industrial chemicals, such as solvents and coatings; petrochemicals, such as fuels and lubricants; agricultural chemicals such as pesticides; consumer products, such as detergents and disinfectants, and many others.
Whereas the majority of these chemicals are of low concern for human health or the environment, some of them do have properties which are hazardous to human health and/or the environment.
Two key pieces of EU legislation aim at achieving a high level of protection of human health and the environment from chemicals by requiring the producers of chemicals:
- to identify the intrinsic hazards of the chemicals they manufacture or import (i.e. to "classify" chemicals according to their dangers such as flammability, toxicity, carcinogenicity);
- to label these chemicals according to strict rules (i.e. warnings about the dangers and safety advice);
- and to package them safely.
Directive 67/548/EEC (Dangerous Substances Directive) sets out harmonised EU rules for classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous chemical substances. This Directive is under the responsibility of DG Environment.
Directive 1999/45/EC (Dangerous Preparations Directive) extends these rules to dangerous preparations. This directive is the responsibility of DG Enterprise & Industry.