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Revision of EU legislation on hazard classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals

For the implementation of the Green Deal, the chemicals strategy for sustainability sets out a number of actions that require a targeted revision of the Regulation on the classification, labelling and packaging of chemical substances and mixtures.

The Commission’s European Green Deal sets a high ambition for zero pollution leading to a toxic-free environment. One of the first deliverables is the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic-free Environment, which was adopted on 14 October 2020. The objectives of the strategy are to achieve a legitimate higher level of protection of citizens and of the environment against hazardous chemicals. The Commission adds that it is also an opportunity to encourage innovation for the development of safe and sustainable alternatives and to promote the EU industry as a global frontrunner in the chemicals production and use.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Strategy inter alia includes the revision of Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on hazard classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals (the CLP Regulation). The CLP Regulation is the core piece of Union legislation for the hazard assessment of chemicals, stemming from the United Nations’ global standard (GHS), and sets out the hazard classification of chemicals and how to communicate those hazards to consumers and workers. The CLP Regulation together with the REACH Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of chemicals are the key EU legislation on chemicals. In order to deliver on the commitments in the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, the REACH Regulation will also be subject to a targeted revision, along a number of pieces of sectoral chemical legislation.

The CLP Regulation aims at ensuring both a well-functioning single market for chemicals and a high level of protection of human health and of the environment. However, in a number of aspects, the Regulation has not kept up with scientific or technological progress, or with (on-line) market developments, says the Commission. In other aspects, the Regulation is ambiguous and allows for diverging interpretations. This hampers the well-functioning of the single market and inadequately protects human health and the environment. Topics identified include the following:

  • Incomplete information about hazards to human health and the environment. The CLP Regulation is in some respects unclear or incomplete on hazard identification, classification or the roles of different actors, in a way that could lead to insufficient information on chemical hazards available. Examples include: the absence of criteria and labelling requirements for chemicals for some health and environmental hazard such as endocrine disruptors; the absence or lack of clarity of classification or labelling for some products outside the scope of the current CLP regulation; the absence of specific provisions on the clear roles and for responsibilities of the various actors in the case of online sales.

  • Hindrance of the free circulation of chemicals in the internal market and/or undue administrative burden. This relates to, for example: the legal impossibility for companies to use multilingual fold-out labels for normally sized packaging; the practical impossibility for companies placing on the market mixtures in small containers to adhere to the CLP labelling rules.

  • Insufficient public resources and/or risk of inefficient use of them due to the absence of a mandate to the Commission or ECHA to initiate classification dossiers and of a prioritisation mechanism on the need to classify certain chemicals.

Comments should be sent by 1 June. The document is available here. European Commission May 2021


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