19 Aug 2016
Irregularities Found with Child Resistant Packaging Containing Mixtures such as Cleaning Materials
On 21 June 2016, the results of an enforcement project were reported by the European Chemicals Agency. The project was coordinated by a forum of enforcement authorities, and 15 European countries participated. The project’s focus was to inspect the safety of packaging of commonly used consumer goods which contained hazardous chemicals.
The inspection covered 797 mixtures: these included disinfectants and bleaches, as well as different sorts of cleaners for drains, toilets, ovens and windows.
In total, more than a quarter (29%) of the products investigated were found to be non-compliant with the relevant EU rules, namely, those set out in the CLP Regulation. CLP stands for classification, labelling and packaging, a Regulation which is closely related to the EU’s other main chemicals body of law, the REACH Regulation.
The CLP law, applicable throughout the EU, stipulates that the packaging of hazardous substances shouldn’t fuel children’s curiosity and should contain child-resistant fastening. Packaging with child-resistant fastening is defined as being “difficult for young children to open (or gain access to the contents), but possible for adults to use properly”. An example of such fastening would be a cap requiring a certain level of coordination and both hands for it to be opened.
Furthermore, pursuant to the Regulation, the packaging of hazardous substances should not mislead customers. This means that the packaging should not resemble that used for foodstuffs, medicinal products, animal feed or cosmetics. ECHA has stated that “tactile warning[s] of danger should be present as well”.
Member State inspectors found that, for 77 products surveyed, either the required tactile warning of danger was not on the packaging or it was not placed correctly. Furthermore, in 66 other cases the classification and labelling relating to the child resistant fastening requirement was incorrect. Interestingly, in a few other cases, the surveyed items had been designed in a manner that could even awaken children’s curiosity.
It has also been stated that most of the products were subject to a classification of skin corrosion category 1 or aspiration hazard category 1. Yet, in 32 cases, the inspectors proved that products containing hazardous chemicals were not adequately fastened to prevent children from opening them. They did not, in consequence, meet the legal requirements for child resistant fastening. In addition, other issues that the inspectors often came across included unreliable certificates without clear references to the packaging in question.
Hong Kong sellers of packaged mixtures including detergents and lighter fluids may like to know that, as a result of the survey, 411 legal actions and enforcement measures were taken by the forum’s inspectors. In all, 24 products were banned from the market, while another 24 items were withdrawn from the market. That being said, most of the legal actions consisted of verbal or written advice and administrative orders; there was also frequently voluntary action being taken by the companies themselves.
It may be recalled that ECHA had announced, in June last year, that its Forum of Enforcement Authorities would be leading inspections. These were to last from July to December 2015, with the aim of ensuring that the child resistant fastening requirements were being complied with, as provided for in the CLP Regulation.
These rules are of particular importance for consumers, particularly the protection of children. In Sweden, for example, it had been reported (before the inspections began) that there were 200-500 cases of children being harmed by consumer grill lighter fluids, each year.
ECHA has pointed out that child resistant fastening is required if the substance/mixture has any of the following hazards: acute toxicity, toxicity to specific organs, skin corrosion, aspiration hazard or if the product contains methanol in a concentration of at least 3%, such as in certain antifreeze products, or dichloromethane in a concentration of at least 1%, such as in certain adhesives.
ECHA had announced, before the inspections began last year, that checks were scheduled to be carried out for products such as grill-lighter fluids, disinfectants, cleaning and laundry products and drain cleaners. Moreover, the inspections were to mainly target formulators, re-importers, re-fillers and re-packagers of mixtures intended for the general public, and importers of mixtures. In addition, distributors (including retailers) and manufacturers that sell substances intended for the general public, were to be inspected.