EU votes in chemical labelling law

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

The European Parliament has voted in favour of incorporating the United Nations’ (UN) Globally Harmonised System (GHS) for chemical packaging into EU law.

Classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures is covered under the legislation, which aims to provide a global standard for the international industry.

The legislation is similar to existing EU rules but companies will have to adapt to certain technical changes when the new standard comes into force.

Andreas Schwab, Co-Rapporteur for the Internal Market Committee, said:​“The new regulation is the basis for European enterprises to be prepared for global competition because it avoids costs by harmonising labelling of chemicals worldwide​."

"[It] is an important step to enhance security standards in handling chemicals. In this sector, Europe is ahead of other states and can provide an example for the rest of the world​.

The European Parliament was almost unanimous in voting in the new legislation, with just nine opposing and 13 abstaining.

Implementation of the legislation is intended to ensure protection of human health and the environment, while allowing the free movement of substances and mixtures.

This is the same basic goal of the existing legislation but those affected should be aware that the new rules change some of the criteria for classification.

Such changes will impact upon manufacturers, importers and downstream users who are obliged under the legislation to classify substances and mixtures placed on the market. A harmonised list of substances classified at Community level in Annex VI will also be established under the legislation.

UN seeks global standard

At heart the new legislation is fundamentally the same as the UN’s text, which was developed through international negotiations attended by the Commission and members states.

Consequently amendments have only been made to bring the legislation in line with existing provisions and to make it more consistent with REACH.

REACH and the GHS occupy slightly different territories of chemical regulation, which has necessitated work by the EU to ensure they work in harmony.

The legislation aims to evaluate the “intrinsic hazards of substances and mixtures​” and apply appropriate precautionary labels. In contract REACH evaluates “risks in relation to identified uses with the aim of providing concrete instructions to downstream users​”.

Companies have until 1 December 2010 to be compliant with the legislation for substances, with a deadline for the reclassification and labelling of mixtures being set for 1 June 2015.

Dates were chosen to ensure that companies are not overburdened by dealing with REACH and implementing the new legislation.

The procedural file and legislative dossier can be found here​.

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