Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation (CLP overview here) update: the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) submitted its study on communication of information on the safe use of chemicals to the general public. Submissions go to the European Commission (EC).
This CLP study provides insights on how to further improve hazard communication to EU citizens. Here are highlights and key points of the :
- Awareness among the general public of the new international hazard labels which appear on the packaging of chemical substances is mostly low but consumers rarely purchase these chemicals, the labels are relatively new and awareness will surely grow. However, work is needed at national, industry and EU level both to raise awareness and, crucially, understanding of what the labels mean.
- The perception of hazards varies among countries as well as between specific sub-groups of the general public. Awareness-raising activities therefore need to address national hazard perception patterns as well as the differing approaches to hazards exhibited by specific audiences such as families, single households, workers, school children, etc.
- Most people make their choices on the safe use and storage of household chemical products on the basis of their acquaintance with the product as well as other emotional drivers which rely more on experience than on information found on the package. Awareness-raising activities therefore also need to take into account these emotional and experienced-based drivers.
- Further analysis of the impact of the hazard labels on EU citizens’ behavior and understanding could be useful after 2015 – the date by which new labels must have replaced the old ones on all chemical mixtures like paint and glues for example.
CLP and product packaging
The CLP report by ECHA specifies that industry should be encouraged to bring product appearance and packaging more in line with the hazard information on labels, making use of behavioral drivers to amplify the label’s message, thereby promoting the appropriate safety behavior in consumers. Interestingly, this comes in conjunction with MEPs in Europe voting “no” to relaxing food labelling opportunity for food manufacturers: On Feb. 2 MEPs voted to ditch a European Commission plan for giving food producers new choices to promote products as having less fat, sugar or salt.
Changes to the CLP labels themselves are not recommended in the report. The study concluded there’s more benfit to allowing the public to get used to the new labelling system – now in use globally – steadily improving the overall understanding of hazards posed by chemicals and encouraging safer use of chemicals, household chemicals in particular.
Follow up According to CLP Regulation Article 34, the European Commission will, on the basis of the study, submit a report to the European Parliament and the European Council in order to, if justified, present a legislative proposal to amend the Regulation.