Fabian Demicoli

Chemicals and Hazardous Substances:Preparing for what is yet to come

Witness the events of the 1984
Bhopal disaster in India in which approximately 3,787 are officially recorded
as being killed, and it becomes clear what destruction the misuse of chemicals
can cause. The United Nations has addressed the issue in the hope of ensuring
the safe use, transport and disposal of such chemicals.

The UN did this through
the introduction of the "Globally Harmonized System of Classification and
Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)" system. The GHS's scope is to disclose a
classification of chemicals according to hazard risks and propose a
harmonisation of hazard communication components, for instance: safety data
sheets and labels. The GHS offers a foundation for a harmonisation of rules and
regulations on the use of chemicals at a national, regional and supranational
level. Harmonisation also greatly facilitates trade, where imports and exports
would have similar – if not exact – labelling, among other factors.

In 2003, the European Commission
adopted a proposal for a new EU regulatory framework for chemicals, called
REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), that made it a
necessity for enterprises that import or manufacture more than one tonne of
chemical substance per annum to register information in a main database. REACH
is an initiative with the aim of improving the safeguarding of human health and
the environment, and upholding competitiveness and innovative capabilities of
the EU chemicals industry.

The European Union has
aligned its legislation with the UN's GHS system through Regulation (CE)
1272/2008 (CLP Regulation). Among the changes that came with this CLP
Regulation is the replacing of old terms with new ones, such as "mixtures"
instead of "preparations" and "hazardous" instead of "dangerous." The
Regulation has also introduced new red-framed pictograms to gradually replace
the older orange danger symbols.

Suppliers are usually
required to decide on the classification of a mixture or substance, collectively
known as "self-classification." Sometimes the decision on the classification of
a chemical is even taken at Community level so as to ensure proper risk
management. Suppliers are expected to replace the classifications under the
Dangerous Substances Directive with the new harmonised classification and
labelling that has been mentioned above. The instances in which suppliers are
required to label a substance or mixture contained in packaging are as follows:

–    When
a substance is classified as hazardous

–    When
a mixture contains one or more substances classified as hazardous above a
certain threshold

The full application of
this Regulation is a gradual process, in which the CLP Regulation that entered
into force on 20 January 2009 will increasingly substitute the labelling and
classification of the Dangerous Substances (67/548/EEC) and Dangerous Preparations
(1999/45/EC) Directives. These two obsolete Directives will be annulled on 1
June 2015. From this date onwards, all mixtures in products must be classified
according to the CLP Regulation, and two years later (1 June 2017) a
re-packaging and re-labelling of products already on the market must be

The European chemical
Substances Information System (ESIS) can provide valuable information to those
working in trade as it contains a database of chemicals and the risks they
entail. This database can be found at: 
http://esis.jrc.ec.europa.eu/. The European Chemicals Agency website
provides more detailed analyses on chemicals through its Classification and
Labelling Inventory.

When placing a hazardous
substance on the EU market, businesses must inform the Classification &
Labelling Inventory within one month of placing the substance on the market for
the first time. One must also note that this service is free of charge.
Additionally, importers must follow a particular timeframe in which the one month
is counted from the day the substance is physically introduced into the EU's
customs territory.

In order to comply with
CLP, businesses can follow a number of steps:

1.   Identify
your role and obligations under the CLP regulation. A business can have more
than one role, and these roles include manufacturers, importers, users,
distributors and producers of articles.

2.   Update
the inventory of your substances and mixtures.

3. Familiarise yourself with your substances to see
whether they are subject to harmonised classification at Community level by
consulting Annex VI to the CLP Regulation


4.   Make use of
the ECHA website.

5.   View how
other companies have notified the same substance in the ECHA Classification
& Labelling Inventory.

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