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Goods Containing Chemical Mixtures Sold to EU Consumers Found to Be Largely Non-compliant with Labelling and Classification

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has produced a report covering the sixth EU-wide Enforcement Forum project (REF-6), which focused on the classification and labelling of mixtures. ECHA notes that the most common mixtures that were checked by Member State competent authorities were washing and cleaning products; biocidal products; coatings, paints, thinners and paint removers; adhesives and sealants; room fragrances and air freshener products. They were checked as they are known to commonly contain hazardous ingredients.

The main scope of the REF-6 project was checking compliance of the classification and labelling of chemical mixtures. The aim of the project was to check for compliance with, and raise awareness of a variety of, legal provisions under the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation for substances and mixtures. Hong Kong sellers may know that, under EU law, chemical products that are used by consumers are generally mixtures of different substances. To make sure that consumers can use them safely, information on safe use is passed on to them by means of labels that are placed on products and which communicate the hazards and inform users of safe use. To prepare the correct information on safe use, the mixture must first be classified so as to identify hazardous properties, and on the basis of such hazard classification an appropriate CLP label is prepared.

Altogether, inspectors in 29 European countries checked 3,391 mixtures and inspected 1,620 companies, comprising manufacturers, importers, downstream users and distributors. The REF-6 project also looked at exemptions from labelling and packaging requirements, harmonised classification, biocide-related obligations and specific rules for liquid laundry detergent capsules.

The main findings of the project are as follows:

  • 43% of all reported companies were found to have at least one non-compliance and 44% of reported mixtures were non-compliant in some way.
  • 17% of reported mixtures were using an incorrect classification. This may result in the incorrect labelling of the mixtures, and thereby incorrect advice to consumers on safe-use.
  • Hong Kong traders may know that for certain substances that have hazards of particularly high concern (carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity and respiratory sensitisers), classification and labelling is harmonised throughout the EU to ensure adequate risk management. For 9% of those substances checked in the project, the required harmonised classification and labelling were, however, not applied.
  • 33% of reported mixtures had incorrect labelling.
  • 33% of the checked safety data sheets were non-compliant with the requirements checked in the project.
  • Inspectors checked the requirements for packaging and labelling liquid laundry detergent capsules (LLDCs). The most significant finding is that for 22% of the checked LLDCs, the closure of the outer packaging did not maintain its functionality when repeatedly opened and closed during the life span of the packaging.
  • For checked biocidal products, around 7% of them lacked either valid authorisations according to the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) or national legislation during the transitional period. For 17% of the biocides, labels were non-compliant.

ECHA notes that manufacturers, importers and downstream users have to put more effort into deriving the right classification for mixtures and communicating this down the supply chain. Such action will prevent incorrect information being disseminated in safety data sheets and on labels. It is advised that industry should also work on improving the quality of safety data sheets which will in turn lead to improved information flowing through the supply chain. Furthermore, it is explained that the understanding of biocides legislation should be improved to minimise breaches caused by a lack of knowledge of the BPR. For liquid laundry detergent capsules, industry is advised to improve packaging to ensure that their closures function correctly throughout the lifespan of the products as required by the EU law.

The project also included additional optional modules for:

  • exemptions from labelling and packaging requirements;
  • harmonised classification and labelling of substances;
  • specific rules applicable to liquid laundry detergent capsules (LLDC); and
  • biocides.

For more details of the REF-6 project, Hong Kong sellers can refer to the following document: REF-6 Project Report – Classification and labelling of mixtures.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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