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The classification, labelling and packaging of chemical substances and mixtures

The production and use of chemicals is fundamental to all economies all over the world. However, it is also recognised that chemicals pose risks that should be indicated throughout the supply chain. Many countries have developed systems for providing information on hazardous properties and control measures of chemicals aimed at ensuring their safe production, transport, use and disposal. Yet, those systems are currently not always compatible with each other and often require multiple labels and Safety Data Sheets for the same product.

Consequently, companies involved in international trade need to follow multiple regulations regarding hazard classification and labelling depending on where they do business and users may see inconsistent label warnings and Safety Data Sheets for the same chemical.

Therefore, the European Parliament and Council adopted the  Regulation on the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures (CLP). It entered into force on 20 January 2009. The CLP Regulation will replace certain provisions of the  directives related to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances (Directive 67/548/EEC) and preparations (Directive 1999/45/EC) after a transitional period. These Directives will be repealed on 1 June 2015.

The  Regulation incorporates the classification criteria and labelling rules agreed at UN level, the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). It introduces new classification criteria, hazard symbols (pictograms) and labelling phrases, while taking account of elements which are part of the earlier EU legislation.

The Regulation requires companies to classify, label and package appropriately their hazardous chemicals before placing them on the market. It aims to protect workers, consumers and the environment by means of labelling which reflects possible hazardous effects of dangerous substances.

The labelling provisions take on board the red-framed hazard pictograms, signal words, hazard and precautionary statements provided for in the UN GHS, for example:

current symbol

new symbol

extremely flammable

Extremely flammable (liquid and vapour)

Extremely Flammable

Extremely flammable (liquid and vapour)

The Regulation also takes over certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 (REACH) regarding the notification of classifications, the establishment of a list of harmonised classifications and the creation of a classification and labelling inventory.

For more information: European Chemicals Agency