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Article related to: CLP
Inconsistent classification and labelling of mixtures – companies need to improve
When inspectors in 29 countries checked to see if companies are classifying and labelling their mixtures correctly, they found that almost half of the checked mixtures were not compliant with the law. We spoke with two inspectors, who have experience in enforcing these duties and who also took part in this EU-wide Enforcement Forum project, to learn about the results and what companies could do to improve.
Chemical products used by consumers are mixtures of different substances. All products on the EU market that contain hazardous chemicals have to be appropriately classified and labelled so that those using them have the information they need to do so safely. The mixtures inspected during the sixth Enforcement Forum project included washing and cleaning products, paints and paint removers, adhesives and sealants, room fragrances, air fresheners and biocidal products.
Altogether 3 391 mixtures and 1 620 companies were inspected. ”For me, the most important finding was the high level of non-compliance. There was at least one non-compliance in 44 % of the checked mixtures and the project showed us the reality of the situation on the market. Since I am working as an inspector myself, I wasn’t surprised because we regularly see similar results in our national inspections,” says Henrik Hedlund, Swedish Forum member and the Chair of the Forum working group that ran the project.
|Henrik Hedlund. |
Image: Swedish Chemicals Agency.
|"Since 17 % of reported mixtures were incorrectly classified, this means that not all downstream users and consumers are getting correct and sufficient information on the hazards of mixtures to enable safe use." |
Since the scope of the project was very wide – the checks covered classification and labelling of mixtures, exemptions for labelling small packaging, harmonised classification, liquid laundry detergent capsules and biocides – it is not easy to pinpoint how severe the non-compliance is. “Some of the cases might refer to formalistic errors whereas others directly affect risk management measures or hazard communication,” Mr Hedlund explains.
Some of the mistakes are easy to fix
According to Mr Hedlund, some of the inconsistencies observed during different inspections are not difficult to correct – but they might require some work particularly if the company has many products in their portfolio. One example relates to the classification of substances in the mixture under Section 3 of the safety data sheet. “We often see in Swedish inspections that the classification of substances in mixtures in the safety data sheet doesn’t correspond with the one in the registration dossier. These two need to match and it is quite easy to make sure they are aligned.”
Another mistake Mr Hedlund says he commonly sees in Sweden relates to how mixtures are classified. Although companies are allowed to use concentration ranges in their safety data sheets, they need to calculate mixture classifications using exact concentrations. “This is problematic since inspectors often only have access to concentration ranges in safety data sheets and make their calculations based on the ‘worst case scenario’, so they might end up with a different classification than the owner of the data.” To prevent this, companies should use concentration ranges in such a way that they do not span over several hazard classes and categories.
The third point Mr Hedlund makes has to do with IT tools designed to help create safety data sheets. “When looking for a reason why a classification in the safety data sheet doesn’t match with the information given in the corresponding registration, we’ve noticed that in many cases, the company has used an IT tool to create the safety data sheet and this tool already contains some classification and labelling data. Using this ready data from the IT tool, instead of asking for the real data from your supply chain, may cause the classification not to match with what you have reported in your registration dossier.” Therefore, Mr Hedlund recommends companies to carefully check that the data adds up if they are getting this information directly from an IT tool.
Consumers and downstream users lacking correct information
The high levels of deficiency observed during the checks affect both consumers and downstream users. “Since 17 % of reported mixtures were incorrectly classified, this means that not all downstream users and consumers are getting correct and sufficient information on the hazards of mixtures to enable safe use,” Mr Hedlund explains.
Having incorrect or insufficient information on the label may have serious consequences. While professional users have other pieces of legislation they can rely on, such as the occupational safety and health (OSH) legislation that aims to protect them and improve their safety and health at work, consumers only have the information from the label. Professional users also have access to safety data sheets and in some cases, their employers may provide additional advice and material, too.
|Viktoriya Hristova. |
Image: Viktoriya Hristova.
What about biocidal products?
Biocidal products were also in the scope of the project. “The main reason for including biocides was to ensure that only those authorised for use and appropriately labelled are placed on the European market,” says Viktoriya Hristova, one of the experts for the biocides part of the project.
According to Ms Hristova, this was the most thorough check carried out on biocidal products in Europe so far. Inspectors from 24 countries checked 760 biocidal products. Based on the results, Ms Hristova is of the opinion that companies, in general, are well aware of the legal requirements of the Biocidal Products Regulation.
Nevertheless, 17 % of the checked biocidal products did not comply with labelling requirements and 7 % did not have the necessary product authorisation (national or EU-wide) in place.
“Since labels on biocidal products contain the precautions that consumers must take to make sure they are using the product safely, mislabelling may have irreversible consequences for human and animal health, as well as for the environment. The same applies to unauthorised biocidal products on the market,” Ms Hristova explains.
Interview by Päivi Jokiniemi
Published on: 13 February 2020
Top image: © Pixabay/Mohamed Hassan
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Biocidal Products Committee:
26 February-1 March
Committee for Risk Assessment:
6-8 March and
Committee for Socio-Economic
Management Board meeting:
23-27 March (tentative)
Member State Committee:
20-24 April (tentative)