Classification and labelling identify hazardous chemicals and inform users about their hazards through standard symbols and phrases. They need to be harmonised to ensure good worldwide understanding and to facilitate the free flow of goods. In the EU, the classification and labelling of hazardous chemicals is governed by Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (the 'CLP Regulation').
Read more on the CLP Regulation, its adaptations to technical progress, and related legislation.
New pictograms in the shape of a red diamond with a white background are replacing the orange ones in the EU. From 1 June 2015, companies are required to classify and label substances and mixtures according to the CLP Regulation. See more information on the ECHA website. Test your knowledge on CLP pictograms (coming soon).
The United Nations' Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) provides a harmonised basis for globally uniform physical, environmental, and health and safety information on hazardous chemical substances and mixtures. It sets up criteria for the classification of chemicals for physical-chemical, health, and environmental hazards of chemical substances and mixtures and sets up standardised hazard information to facilitate global trade of chemicals. GHS was adopted by the United Nations in 2002 and is periodically updated. The implementation of the GHS in the EU in 2008 makes the EU a front-runner in its uptake.
The GHS has been implemented in the EU by Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (the 'CLP Regulation'). The CLP Regulation entered into force on 20 January 2009. The deadline for substance classification according to the new rules was 1 December 2010; for mixtures, the deadline is 1 June 2015. The CLP Regulation replaces previous rules on classification, labelling and packaging of substances (Directive 67/548/EEC) and preparations (Directive 1999/45/EC) after this transitional period.
In line with the GHS standard, CLP allows for the identification of hazardous chemicals and the communication of these hazards to users through labelling. It also provides the basis for safety data sheets (SDS) regulated under the REACH Regulation, and sets requirements for the packaging of hazardous chemicals.
Hazard identification is the process by which information about the intrinsic properties of a substance or mixture is assessed to determine its potential to cause harm. If the nature and severity of an identified hazard meets the classification criteria in Annex I to the CLP Regulation, a certain hazard class will be assigned to the substance or mixture. There are hazard classes for physical hazards, health hazards, and environmental hazards.
For most substances and mixtures, manufacturers, importers, downstream users and distributors must determine the hazard classification themselves. In certain cases, the classification of a chemical is harmonised at EU level. The list of harmonised classification and labelling is included in Annex VI to the CLP Regulation.
Once the substance or mixture is classified based on its hazards, the hazards needs to be communicated to the user. The label of a hazardous substance or mixture includes pictograms, signal words, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and supplemental statements. Under the CLP Regulation, pictograms with a red diamond on a white background replace the orange squares from the old system.
For more information on the labelling of hazardous substances and mixtures, including guidance documents, please consult the ECHA website.
CLP sets general packaging standards to ensure the safe supply of hazardous substances and mixtures. In the case of certain hazards, substances and mixtures need to carry child-resistant fastenings and/or tactile warnings.
Classification and Labelling rules for international transport purposes are developed under the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods with close links to the UN GHS. For more on classification and labelling for transport, see the website of DG MOVE.
The CLP Regulation requires EU countries to appoint bodies 'responsible for receiving information on dangerous mixtures in order to formulate appropriate emergency measures (so called poison centres)’.
The European Commission, the European Chemicals Agency, and international organisations all play a role in CLP and GHS.
Guidance on how to apply the provisions of the CLP Regulation is available from the CLP guidance section of the ECHA website, including the Introductory Guidance on the CLP Regulation and the Guidance on the Application of the CLP Criteria.
National helpdesks have been established to provide guidance in national languages. Their contact details are available from the helpdesk section of the ECHA website.
The following pages contain archived information on the preparation of the CLP Regulation:
The following pages contain archived information on the implementation of Directive 1999/45/EC (Dangerous Preparations Directive), which was repealed on 1 June 2015. Please note that mixtures placed on the market before 1 June 2015 in compliance with Directive 1999/45/EC may be sold with the old label until 1 June 2017.