No need to change warning labels, decides European Commission

06th November 2012 - Fine Cut

The European Commission (EC) has decided that the current classification, packaging and labelling system for dangerous chemicals is satisfactory - for now.

According to, the commission investigated whether the current warning labels system should be changed in response to a study by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). In January, it suggested that more work was needed to communicate new EU-wide hazard labels for chemicals to the public.

However, the EC, which was responsible for reporting its findings to European Parliament and a Council of Ministers, has concluded that consumers are still getting used to the new labelling system that was introduced in December 2010.

In the EC's report, hosted at, the group says that several hazardous symbols are still highly recognisable - even after the fairly recent illustrative changes. These include the pictogram for 'flammable' chemicals, recognised by over 80 per cent of respondents in a European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) study, and the symbol for 'explosives' - also understood by more than 80 per cent of Europeans.

The new pictogram representing a serious health hazard on the other hand, illustrated by an explosion-like graphic occurring on a human chest, was only recognised by 20 per cent of the general public and understood by just 12 per cent.

The EC concluded: "The first clear outcome from the levels of recognition and understanding of CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures) pictograms is that awareness-raising activities are needed to enhance the general public's recognition and understanding of the new CLP labels."

However, the EC noted that the new labelling is currently only mandatory for individual chemical substances, not the kinds of chemical mixtures that are more frequently sold to the public. CLP pictograms for chemical mixtures will apply from 1 June 2015, so this should be the real target date to make sure Europeans are up-to-speed with the new meanings.

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