Although several years have elapsed since the regulation were first drafted, the industry still has a number of worries about their implementation.
By mid-2015 all new coatings products and other mixtures like detergents and household and industrial cleaners will have to carry specific labels complying with the EU’s Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation
By mid-2017 all coatings products on sale in the EU will have to bear the CLP labels with hazard symbols or pictograms different in appearance and in scope to those required by previous legislation.
The CLP regulation was approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, representing the Union’s member states, in 2008 so that it could start to come into force in 2009.
In its first stage of implementation, only individual substances or chemicals had to be classified and labelled according to their hazards by a deadline of December 2010, which is followed by a second stage deadline of June 1 this year for the classification and labeling of mixtures.
A major concern for the coatings industry is ignorance among coatings users about the CLP scheme, particularly about changes to hazard classification and symbols. “There are coatings which will be labelled hazardous which have not been labelled that way before,” said Wayne Smith, regulatory affairs director at the British Coatings Federation (BCF).
Classifying of the hazards of mixtures is mainly done on the basis of the dangers posed by their individual substances, whose safety profile can change.
The EU’s REACH legislation, on the registration, evaluation and authorization of around 30,000 substances over 11 years to 2018, is triggering changes in CLP classifications. At the same time the scope of what is categorized as a hazard has been extended.
The CLP regulation has not only introduced new hazard pictograms but altered their design from black symbols on an orange background to ones on a white background with a red border. Among the new symbols is one for respiratory hazards showing the dark outline of a man with what looks like an exploding chest.
Mixtures containing solvents now have to carry a pictogram with a flames symbol to show the danger of flammability. The application of a symbol of a skull and crossbones has been extended to cover a broader range of danger.
“Customers and their staff working in manufacturing, as well as professional decorative painters, will know these symbols because they are already known in industry and transport,” explained Michael Bross, director of the German Paint and Printing Ink Association (VdL). “But it will be different with consumers. They will be confused and could be asking a lot of questions.”
Also customers, both in industry and the DIY sector, may be surprised to see hazard pictograms on coatings products that previously did not carry them. “Some are quite dramatic looking, ” said Jo Lloyd, technical director at ReachReady, a London-based consultancy. “There will be purchasers of coatings and other mixtures who may switch to another product even though the actual information in the safety data sheet will be unchanged.”
Some people in the coatings industry are annoyed that neither the EU nor national governments and agencies have launched publicity campaigns to inform users of coatings and other mixtures about CLP.
“Compliance with CLP is costing the coatings industry a lot of money because companies have had to invest, for example, in new software, assistance from consultants and training,” said Smith. “Many end-users will not fully understand what CLP is all about and with them all the work put into implementation of the regulation could turn out to be a waste of money.”
Parts of the regulation, which has already been subject to a number of corrections and additions since it was approved, now looks likely to be changed after the European Commission decided to ask representatives of national health and safety agencies to sort out certain problems with the CLP rules.
A major difficulty has been a lack of clarity in the text of the regulation on the question of multi-lingual folded labels used on small packs and containers of speciality coatings and other products. There are also claimed to be ambiguities on the subject in the guidance on the regulation issued by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the EU body based in Helsinki, Finland, which administers the CLP, as well as the REACH legislation.
EU member states have taken advantage of the uncertainties to impose restrictions on the use on small packs of multi-lingual folded labels language, including a provision that a warning in the language of each domestic market must be listed first.
“With a folded multi-lingual label manufacturers of speciality coatings products have been able to use a single label for the whole of Europe,” explained Bross. “If the national language of each country has to come first a different label will have to be provided for each country. That will be expensive and a barrier to free trade.”
The labeling of coatings with biocides could also be an issue because the implementation the EU’s new Biocides Products Regulation (BPR) has yet to be completed. Safety assessments of biocides under the BPR are still being carried out particularly at the national level.
“There are also still uncertainties whether the hazard classification of a biocide under the BPR should be incorporated into the CLP scheme or should be carried as a separate warning on the label,” said Janice Robinson, director product regulations at the European Council of the Paint, Printing Inks and Artists Colour Industry (CEPE), Brussels.
The CLP rules are closely aligned to those laid down in the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of classification and labelling of chemicals. So any GHS changes will have to be included in the CLP regulation.
To keep up with research into the safety features of substances and mixtures, the CLP regulation was drawn up so that alterations to classifications can be made to allow for what is called ‘adaptation to technical progress’ (ATPs).
Mixtures, particularly the interaction between substances within them, are a relatively new area of safety research. The Commission has recently set up a working group to investigate technological aspects of the safety of mixtures.
“We are in the early days of these sort of research initiatives so it is uncertain what will be their impacts on CLP classifications,” said Robinson.
For coatings producers CLP compliance will not just be a matter of meeting deadlines. It will be a continuous process of ensuring that the hazards classification and labelling of their products remains consistent with the latest safety studies.