Chemical Label Classification

CLP is the abbreviated form used for the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures. In January 2009 all EU Member states including the UK took on new European Regulations. 

Chemical label classification is used primarily to ensure the health and safety of the user. The labels are used to inform the user as to whether a chemical is hazardous, and if so, explaining what the hazards are and how to avoid them. 

Most of the chemicals we use do not fall into the hazardous class and therefore do not require any further information on it’s labelling. 

However, the chemicals that are concluded by the supplier as being harmful will then fall under the hazardous class. They are then required to provide certain information on their labels. This labelling system helps to instruct the user on how to appropriately store and dispose of any packaging and how to act should a spillage occur. 

Further information is found on the labels to reduce any potential risks during use.  This comes in the form of Hazard Statements, these are phrases used by the supplier to describe the nature of the hazard within the mix. 

Commonly found examples of Hazard Statements on Hazardous Labels are as follows:

Causes serious eye damage
Toxic if swallowed
Toxic to the aquatic life with long lasting effects

In addition to this, a Precautionary Statement is also to be present on the labelling. This will be recommendations as to certain methods required to prevent any adverse effects resulting from exposure to the hazardous substance or mixture during use or disposal. 

These Precautionary Statements are well recognised with a couple of examples below: 

Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product
Wear eye protection 

The CLP Regulation has introduced two new signal words as a way of identifying the more and less severe hazards, these are ‘Warning’ and ‘Danger’, the latter being used as the more severe.

When a chemical has been classed as hazardous, there are certain words that are prohibited on the labelling of these products. The reason for this is to not mislead the user about the hazards and more importantly, not to underestimate them. Words that fall into this category include ‘safe’, ‘non-harmful’, ‘non-toxic’, ‘non-polluting’, ‘ecological’, ‘eco’, etc. 

Hazard symbols and pictograms are used on product labelling to help us visibly see what their potential danger might be. It may be that they are explosive, oxidising, highly or extremely flammable, (very) toxic, harmful, irritant, corrosive, or dangerous for the environment. 

The law on chemical classification and labelling has recently changed, therefore doing away with the well-known striking black and orange symbols and replacing these with a red outlined diamond shape, incorporating a black symbol on a white background, these will now be known as pictograms. The new regulation has also introduced some new pictograms informing us as to any long-term health risks and warning users about products that contain gas under pressure.