19 May 2017
End of Transitional Period for Hazardous Chemical Labelling Obliges All Supply Chain Actors to Check Their Products
Hong Kong traders who export chemical products to the EU should be aware that the end of a two-year transitional period for the labelling of mixtures is drawing near, in accordance with Regulation 1272/2008 on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (more commonly known as the CLP Regulation).
The scope of the applicable rules does not merely extend to industrial mixtures: consumer products like adhesives and solvents, all kinds of paints and dyes, cleaning agents (detergents, descalers, degreasers), fertilisers and even scented candles are covered. There are only a limited number of exemptions, e.g. for mixtures intended for the final user in the areas of medicinal products for humans and animals, and for cosmetic products.
Mixtures classified, labelled and packaged in accordance with the now repealed Dangerous Preparations Directive (1999/45/EC), that were placed on the market before 1 June 2015, can only be sold until 31 May 2017 at the latest. From 1 June 2017 onwards, products labelled according to the requirements of the previous legislation must be withdrawn from the market or re-classified and re-labelled in accordance with the CLP Regulation.
The most visible change is in the sphere of pictograms. Those with a red diamond border on a white background will replace the orange squares from the old system. Additionally, the appropriate signal words (e.g. “danger” or “warning”); hazard statements (e.g. “flammable gas”, “causes eye irritation”); precautionary statements (e.g. “keep away from fire/ heat”, “store in a dry place”); and supplemental statements (e.g. “reacts violently with water”) have to appear on the label.
Only those labels which comply with the CLP rules will be accepted from 1 June 2017. This means that the provisions that are laid down in Title III of the CLP Regulation and the details further clarified in its Annexes I-V must be complied with.
Importantly, Hong Kong sellers should note that other labels, even if designed according to legislation of non-EU countries implementing the UN’s Global Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of chemicals (GHS), will not be accepted in the EU anymore.
Similarly, from 1 June 2017, the classification according to the old Dangerous Preparations Directive must not be included in any EU-destined safety data sheets (SDSs) any longer. It has to be completely replaced by the CLP classification. The contents of the SDS must match the information on the label of the mixture.
Hong Kong businesses that routinely trade in products containing hazardous chemicals may recall that, in order to achieve a global understanding of standard symbols, and to facilitate global trade, warnings and pictograms have had to be harmonised. The GHS provides a harmonised basis for worldwide uniform safety information on hazardous chemicals and mixtures. Since its adoption in 2002 it is being updated every two years.
By implementing the GHS in 2008 by means of the CLP Regulation, the EU claims itself to have become a leader in this area, aiming to empower consumers to easily, quickly and surely identify hazardous chemicals. The scope of the CLP Regulation is very wide and extends even to those chemical products supplied in very small quantities, exempting only a few chemical product types – for example finished cosmetics, veterinary and medicinal products.
The CLP Regulation facilitates the identification of hazardous chemicals and communication of hazard information to users by means of labelling. It provides the basis for SDSs regulated under the complex REACH Regulation, to which it is intrinsically linked. Furthermore, it establishes requirements for the packaging of hazardous chemicals.
After the entry into force of the CLP Regulation on 20 January 2009, several milestones marked the progression of the harmonisation: substances and mixtures had to be classified according to the new rules by, respectively, 1 December 2010 and 1 June 2015, replacing Directive 67/548/EEC on the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances and Directive 1999/45/EC on the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations.
Hazard identification is the starting point for hazard classification: the intrinsic properties of a substance or mixture are assessed to determine its potential to cause harm. According to the classification criteria set out in Annex I to the CLP Regulation, a certain hazard class will be assigned to the substance or mixture according to the nature and severity of an identified hazard. The hazards are distinguished for physical hazards, health hazards, and environmental hazards.
For most substances and mixtures, all supply chain actors, from chemical manufacturers, mixture formulators and importers, to downstream users and distributors must determine the hazard classification independently. For certain hazardous substances, for example substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction or respiratory sensitisers, Annex VI to the CLP Regulation harmonises classification and labelling.
After completing the risk-assessment through classification, the hazard information needs to be instantly accessible to the consumer. Therefore, labels on hazardous substances or mixtures include the use of pictograms, signal words, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and supplemental statements as well as information about the supplier.