While this divergence touches various sectors, we focus on the fragranced goods industry. A bottle of perfume, a scented candle, or an air freshener – they all carry labels that convey essential information about their hazards. But what happens when two distinct regulatory systems demand different hazard classifications for the same product?
We will look at the intricacies of the CLP principles that guide these classifications and how they affect the labels on fragranced goods. From understanding the core principles of hazard classification to dissecting the impact of EU-UK classification divergence, this blog explores the nuances of post-Brexit regulatory challenges.
What is CLP classification?
CLP classification for substances
CLP classification is a meticulous process, considering test data, computer modelling, human experience, and expert assessments. Specific criteria exist for each hazard class and category, guiding suppliers’ self-classification of chemical substances.
CLP classification for mixtures
The significance of hazard classification for fragranced goods
The principles of CLP classification directly impact the labelling of fragranced goods. Fragranced products, such as perfumes, scented candles, and air fresheners, can exhibit a range of hazard classifications. These can fall into three main categories:
- Physical hazards: These encompass 16 main hazard classes, including flammability, reactivity, and the release of flammable gases upon contact with water. Physical hazard classifications are typically based on test data for the substance or mixture.
- Human health hazards: These comprise 10 main hazards, such as acute toxicity, skin corrosion/irritation, and carcinogenicity. Determining human health hazard classifications is often complex, relying on a combination of test data, human data, expert judgment, and specific concentration limits.
- Environmental hazards: These include being hazardous to the aquatic environment and hazardous to the ozone layer. Environmental hazard classifications consider factors like aquatic toxicity, bioaccumulation potential, degradability, and the presence of substances contributing to ozone layer depletion.
The classification of fragranced goods hinges on a comprehensive assessment of their potential hazards. This classification directly informs the labels on these products, understanding the connection between CLP classification principles and the labelling of fragranced products is crucial for both businesses and consumers.
Why are the classifications of chemicals diverging between the EU & UK?
The divergence between the classifications of chemicals in the EU Classification and Labelling (C&L) List and the UK Mandatory Classification List (MCL) is a result of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (Brexit) and its subsequent development of independent regulatory frameworks. Several key factors contribute to this classification divergence:
- Post-Brexit independence: After leaving the EU, the UK regained regulatory autonomy, enabling it to develop its own rules and regulations, including those related to chemical classification and labelling.
- Regulatory frameworks: While the EU’s classification and labelling system is governed by the CLP Regulation (EU No 1272/2008), the UK established its version of this regulation, known as the GB CLP Regulation. These parallel regulations provide the legal basis for classifying and labelling chemicals in the EU and the UK, respectively.
- Alignment challenges: As part of the Brexit process, the UK decided to depart from the regulatory framework of the EU. This required the UK to adapt the existing EU classifications to its context, resulting in differences in classification criteria and terminology.
- Risk assessment and decision-making: Classification of chemicals often involves a complex process of assessing factors, such as toxicity, environmental impact, and hazard potential. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in the EU use separate criteria and risk assessments for certain substances, leading to divergence in classification decisions.
- Diverging expertise and scientific data: Over time, regulatory agencies in the UK and the EU may accumulate different scientific data and expertise, leading to varying interpretations of hazard data and potential effects.
- Global harmonization challenges: The classification and labelling of chemicals are influenced by international standards, such as the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). However, even with international guidelines, there can be flexibility in how different regions implement and interpret these standards, leading to divergence in specific classifications.
- Ongoing updates: The EU and the UK may make updates and amendments to their classification and labelling regulations independently. These changes may introduce further divergence over time.
The EU-UK classification divergence affects industries like fragrance, flavour, and essential oils, necessitating adaptation by businesses operating in both regions to ensure compliance with respective jurisdiction requirements.
Implications for CLP labels
Updating the GB MCL list
Under Article 37 of the GB CLP Regulation, the Ministerial decision to update the GB MCL list represents an essential regulatory milestone. This list includes legally binding mandatory classifications and labels for substances used in various industrial and consumer products. This update, published on 20th October 2023, brings new and revised GB MCLs into effect.
- Scientific and technical assessment: The decision to update the GB MCL list was grounded in a rigorous scientific and technical assessment. The intrinsic hazards of the 98 substances were identified through a comprehensive evaluation of available information, as outlined in the Agency Technical Reports. This assessment ensures that the classifications accurately reflect the potential risks associated with these substances.
- GB MCL compliance dates: As this update takes effect, businesses and manufacturers must be aware of the compliance dates. The GB CLP publication table provides summaries of the new and revised GB MCLs, along with the entry into force date (20th October 2023) and the compliance date (20th April 2025). This timeline allows stakeholders to adapt and ensure their products meet the updated regulatory requirements.
- Implications for CLP labels: The impact of this decision directly extends to CLP labels on a wide range of chemical products. Businesses dealing with substances on the GB MCL list must promptly and accurately update the labels on their products to align with the new or revised GB MCLs. This ensures compliance with the law and guarantees that consumers and workers are provided with the most up-to-date safety information regarding these substances.
Updating the GB MCL list goes beyond bureaucracy; it directly impacts product classification and labelling. Rigorous scientific assessments, regulatory compliance, and updated labels prioritise safety. UK businesses must comply with the updated GB MCL list to ensure responsible commerce and well-being.
Implications beyond the UK: EU market faces divergence challenges
While the UK and the EU initially adhered to the same set of regulations, changes in classification criteria, scientific assessments, and evolving standards will result in discrepancies between the two systems. As ECHA updates and potentially diverges from certain classifications no longer aligned with the UK, businesses operating in the EU must also adapt their CLP labels to remain compliant with EU regulations.
This growing gap between the UK and EU classification systems means that products intended for both markets may require distinct labels. Businesses dealing with chemicals in their product lines must carefully navigate these differences to ensure they meet the specific regulatory requirements of each jurisdiction.
The key takeaway is that while initiated by Brexit, regulatory divergence has a ripple effect that touches all stakeholders. Businesses operating in the EU market, alongside their UK counterparts, must be diligent in their efforts to stay informed, align with updated classifications, and provide accurate CLP labels that reflect the latest hazard classifications. In doing so, they not only fulfil legal obligations but also prioritise the safety of consumers and workers across these regions.
We have explored the core principles of CLP classification and how they influence the CLP labels on fragranced goods. As we conclude, expect further divergence. These two systems have started to diverge in just three years, and they will likely continue to drift apart as current and future updates occur.
Additionally, it is worth noting that there is a plan for a comprehensive update to the entire EU CLP before 2024. This update will introduce more differences between the two regulations, potentially leading to distinct classifications for the same substance under each CLP regulation.