DG Environment has responsibility at the federal level for checking the conformity with legislation of shipments or the release on the market of dangerous products. Three groups of inspectors more specifically monitor: biocides, dangerous substances and preparations, and international shipments of waste which are not produced, treated or disposed of in Belgium. For example: the environmental inspectors identified an aerosol used to waterproof leather products which is particularly irritating to the respiratory tract. Their work led to a ban on the sale and use of the incriminated product. Inspections aim to protect consumers. They have a preventive effect and serve to enforce the law against companies not in conformity. What exactly do such inspections cover? What steps have to be taken to play by the rules? In fact, it all depends on the particular category of products concerned.
Living in a safer, healthier environment * Who is competent for what? * Inspections carried out by the Federal Inspection Service * Marketing of biocides and dangerous substances and preparations * Examples of hazardous consumer products * Checking biocides * Checking waste in transit * Compliance with standards laid down under the integrated product policy
Chemicals are present everywhere in our environment, as well as in the products we use. Some of these products are harmless while others are hazardous to health and/or the environment.
In order to ensure that our citizens live in a safer and healthier environment, the federal authority has devised a product policy that is environmentally friendly and protects human health.
This policy, based on sustainable developmentEn 1987, la Commission mondiale sur l'environnement et le développement (dite Commission Brundtland) a défini le développement durable, comme un développement qui répond aux besoins du présent sans compromettre les possibilités des générations futures à satisfaire leurs propres besoins, et qui vise à réconcilier le développement économique et social, la protection de l'environnement et la conservation des ressources naturelles. Le développement durable a été consacré par le Traité de l'Union européenne comme l’un de ses objectifs prioritaires., takes the form of a number of measures carried out within the Directorate-General (DG) for Environment of the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Public Health, Food-Chain Safety and Environment.
The Federal Environment Inspectorate is DG Environment’s inspection service. This service was created as an independent section in 2002. Its activities are set out and structured by the law on product standards and its implementing decrees. (see fact sheet products (HTML))
In Belgium, the environment is an area where powers are shared between the Regions and the Federal Government (and also the Communities, for health issues). (see fact sheet CCPIE (HTML))
The Federal Government is responsible for:
· drafting product standards and encouraging sustainable patterns of production and consumption;
· waste in transit;
· protecting the environment and the population against non-ionising and ionising radiation, including radioactive waste;
· preventing environmental damage, poisoning, and health hazards due to chemicals, including pesticides;
· protecting the environment and biological diversity in territorial waters and on the continental shelf;
· internal police measures concerning labour protection on premises that are hazardous, insalubrious or used for noisy or noxious trades;
· import, export and transit of non-native plant and animal species, including their remains;
· manufacture, trade and possession of hunting weapons;
· coordinating international environmental policy.
The items shown in bold above are those which are the full or main responsibility of the Directorate-General for Environment. The others are handled by other federal administrations.
Among the responsibilities of DG Environment (see fact sheet CCPIE - federal powers (HTML)), the task of the Federal Environment Inspectorate is to monitor compliance with existing laws and to detect infringements. Its action makes it possible to put an end to infringements involving hazards and pollution, while also having a preventive and deterrent effect.
Specific powers relating to dangerous products are also managed by other FPSs.
These include, for example, the transport of dangerous goods (in French) (WEB), general product safety (FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy (in French) (WEB)), workplace exposure (FPS Employement, Labour and Social Dialogue (in french only) (WEB)),…
The regions are responsible for the following environmental issues:
- protection of the soil, sub-soil, water and air, combating noise;
- waste policy;
- policing hazardous premises;
- water policy;
- nature conservation and hunting.
This includes matters such as control of pollution, environmental permits, the prevention and management of household waste, quality of surface water, individual water treatment, etc.
The regions are competent for all these matters:
the Walloon Region (in French only) (WEB),
the Flemish Region (in Dutch only) (WEB) or
the Brussels-Capital Region (in French only) (WEB), depending on where the problem is located.
Inspections relate mainly to the following:
1. monitoring the placing on the market of products such as biocides and dangerous substances and preparations;
2. inspecting waste in transit through Belgium;
3. checking compliance with the standards laid down under the integrated product policy.
Integrated and evolutive approach to inspection
A new approach initiated at European level and aimed at an integrated approach to inspection has prompted the service to expand the scope of its inspections to include new regulations and their application in Belgium. For example, the service performs checks on the presence of heavy metals in packaging, sound emissions of lawn mowers, wood treated with fungicide as well as the marketing of substances that destroy the ozone layer.
The nature of the checks performed by the inspection service evolves in line with the laws in force.
In the near future, implementation of the REACH Regulation (HTML) on the European chemicals strategy and the Regulation on the National Environmental Health Plan (HTML) will have a profound impact on the activities of the Federal Inspectorate. Future inspections performed by the service must take account of the necessary changes in the laws involved.
Within the FPS Public Health, Food-Chain Safety and Environment, other departments handle the inspection of specific product categories:
- foodstuffs (Federal Agency for Food-Chain Safety (WEB)),
- drugs (DG Drugs (in French) (WEB)),
- cosmetics, pesticides including plant-protection products (DG Animals, Plants and Food (in French) (WEB)).
These inspections are performed at all levels, at both distributors (wholesalers, supermarkets, retailers) and companies (manufacturers, importers, etc.).
The labelling, packaging and material safety data sheet of all the products of all the players involved must comply with the legislation in force.
In addition, the biocides and dangerous preparations are notified to the Anti-Poison Centre, mainly so that their precise composition can be quickly identified in the event of an accident.
The three product categories biocides, dangerous substances and dangerous preparations, although specifically defined, must comply with legislation that is common to a great extent
< LINK to Royal Decree of 17/07/2002 >.
The hazardousness of a product is determined by its hazard classification.
There are 15 different hazard classes, divided into three groups according to the type of hazard involved.
- Explosion or fire hazards: explosive, oxidizing, extremely flammable, easily flammable and flammable.
- Human health hazards: very toxic, toxicEnsemble des effets néfastes sur la santé humaine ou animale qu’une substance ou une préparation peut entraîner par inhalation, ingestion et contact cutané. La toxicité aiguë se définit par les effets nocifs provoqués par une seule dose ou une seule exposition de courte durée à un produit. La toxicité chronique apparaît à long terme, suite à des administrations répétées., harmfulQui peut entraîner la mort ou de graves dommages à la santé résultant de la toxicité aiguë ou chronique, corrosive, irritantQui peut provoquer des inflammations de la peau ou de l’oeil par contact immédiat, prolongé ou répété., sensitisingProduit ou substance qui peut, en quantités extrêmement faibles, produire des allergies par inhalation (par exemple asthme) ou contact cutané (par exemple eczéma)., carcinogenic, mutagenicQui peut produire des effets génétiques héréditaires sur l’ADN ou les chromosomes chez les personnes exposées. and toxic to reproductionQui peut diminuer les capacités de reproduction de l’homme ou de la femme ou produire des effets néfastes non héréditaires chez leurs enfants..
- Environmental hazard: hazardous for the environment
A hazard classification includes one or more hazards and one or more risk phrases (R phrase).
Examples of hazard classification:
Easily flammable, Corrosive: R11-R34
The final classification is chosen on the basis of laboratory test results and/or calculations taking into account the hazards posed by the substances present and their concentrations.
The test results and a part of the composition must therefore be provided for the inspectors to verify.
The chosen hazard classification largely determines the labelling.
Each hazard has a corresponding symbol and wording.
Each symbol and R phrase in the hazard classification is also associated with safety advice (S phrases), full details of the responsible party, and the chemical names of the most dangerous substances (if necessary).
For the classification
Easily flammable, Corrosive: R11-R34, this will give the following label:
The statutory wording and phrases must be written in the language of the region where the product is placed on the market.
The labelling of biocides requires additional information such as:
- the identity and concentration of each active substance,
- the product’s authorisation number,
- the authorised uses of the product (wood protection, disinfection, etc.),
- the instructions for use and the dosage for each authorised use,
- the batch number and expiry date,
- instructions for disposing of the product and its packaging,
The recommendations on the labels are thus indicative of very real hazards.
Because some consumer products are extremely hazardous, the label of each product must be read carefully, whatever its origin (hypermarket or elsewhere).
- Bleach reacts with acids to form a toxic gas, chlorine. Descaling products are acids… so a mixture of these two products in a confined space can have serious consequences.
- Concentrated sulphuric acid (vitriol) is still sold as liquid plumber. A small quantity of water added to this product releases so much heat that a violent reaction can ensue. Just a few drops on the skin are enough to leave a permanent mark.
Every year, the Anti-Poison Centre receives calls on these products.
Yet the main statutory wordings can be found on the labels:
"Caution! Do not use in combination with other products; dangerous gases can be released (chlorine); etc." for bleach;
"Causes serious burns; Never pour water into this product; etc." for sulphuric acid.
These phrases and others such as "Keep under lock and key and out of the reach of children", can save lives.
That is why the inspectors of the Federal Environment Inspectorate take special care to check the classification and labelling of dangerous substances and preparations.
Along with normal packaging conditions (waterproof, strong and resealable packaging), the inspectors also verify whether the special requirements applicable to certain hazardous products accessible to the general public have been properly respected.
These requirements are as follows:
o biocides, substances and preparations
- classed as very toxic, toxic or corrosive,
- classed as harmful on account of possible lung damage if ingested,
- containing 3% (or more) of methanol or 1% (or more) of dichloromethane,
must be presented in packaging having a child-resistant closure.
o biocides, substances and preparations classified as very toxic, toxic, corrosive, harmful, extremely flammable or easily flammable must be packaged in a container bearing a triangle detectable by touch (in relief) to alert the partially sighted.
Notification to the Anti-Poison Centre
Before placing a dangerous preparation or biocide on the market, the person responsible for doing so must send the Anti-Poison Centre full information to enable it to deal effectively with emergency calls.
This information includes the full composition of the product as well as its material safety data sheet.
The Centre also responds to emergency calls concerning drugs, pesticides, cosmetics, dangerous substances, etc.
In the event of poisoning, contact the Anti-Poison Centre (WEB) on 070 / 245 245.
This call is free of charge.
Keep the product, or at least its label, within reach and at the physician’s disposal.
The material safety data sheet
Like the package leaflet of a medicine, the Material safety data sheetLike the package of a medecine, this technical note accompanies hazardous products throughout their distribution cycle as far as the professionals needing to use them. consists of a technical note that must accompany dangerous substances and preparations and biocides throughout the distribution cycle as far as the professionals needing to use these product types. The material safety data sheet sets out, in 16 points, all the safety information relating to the preparation (composition, first-aid measures, fire-fighting measures, handling and storage, transport, etc.).
This sheet, verified by the inspectors, offers several benefits.
It is sent to the Anti-Poison Centre, enabling it to react appropriately in the event of accident. It helps the inspectors to verify the accuracy of the classifications shown on the label. Employers can use the material safety data sheet to determine whether hazardous chemicals are present in the workplace and assess the risks to which workers are exposed. This sheet can also prove useful in case of fire, accident or pollution.
In addition to legislation common to dangerous substances and preparations, biocides must comply with the legislation specifically applicable to them (see Royal Decree on biocides of 22 May 2003 (FR/NL) (.PDF).
Among other things, this legislation requires:
- manufacturers to obtain an authorisation for placing their products on the market;
- users to be approved for the products they use;
- vendors to be approved for the products they sell.
The inspectors also draft reports on applications for approval of sellers and users.
These authorisations and approvals are generally limited in time. (see fact sheet biocides - business (HTML))
While the the Higher Council on Hygiene (WEB) delivers an opinion on the marketing authorisations for the biocide, the inspectors verify whether the sellers/users comply with the details of the product’s marketing (packaging, labelling, premises, records, etc.). (see fact sheet biocides - business (HTML))
Once the biocide has been placed on the market, the inspectors verify:
- whether the products are properly authorised;
- the statements and records;
- via the invoices, to whom the products are sold;
- the packaging and labelling;
- whether the advertising contains the statutory wording;
- the storage premises in the case of products classed as toxic;
- the availability of the required protective equipment.
The inspectors check the conformity of waste transiting through BelgiumTerm denoting the transport of waste not produced and which will not be destroyed of, processed or adapted in Belgium with the applicable European legislation (LINK Regulation 259/93/EC).
The Regulation applies to international transit only, i.e. the transport of waste which was not produced, and which will not be destroyed, disposed of, processed or adapted in Belgium.
The inspectors verify the load on the trucks as well as checking the accompanying forms carried by the drivers. They also inspect the ports (Antwerp, Ostend, Zeebrugge, Ghent), with particular attention for container transport in the port of Antwerp.
A few figures give an idea of the scale of the operation: in recent years, nearly 16 000 applications of accompanying forms have been processed per year (compared with 5 000 just ten years ago), while around 15 000 trucks (including a certain number transporting waste) are checked on the road.
The integrated product policy (HTML) takes account of a product’s impact on the environment at all stages in its life: from production and distribution through to use and disposal. This gives a clearer view of the real environmental impact.
A new integrated approach to products initiated at the European level, backed by the results of national and international studies, has made it possible to define priority product categories on the basis of their impact on the environment. These categories are as follows: vehicles, electrical and electronic appliances, packaging, construction materials and products containing solvents (paints, detergents, adhesives, etc.).
Many awareness campaigns about these products are therefore possible. One such measure would be to impose restrictive standards (e.g., a maximum concentration of heavy metals allowed in packaging). The work of DG Environment’s inspection service is to monitor and detect infringements of these standards.
Within this framework, inspections are generally conducted by campaigns (a large number of inspections within a limited period). The inspection topics can vary widely, as shown by the most recent campaigns:
- heavy metals in plastic-coated packaging,
- noise standards for lawn mowers.
Federal Public Service for Public Health, Food-Chain Safety and Environment
DG Environment - Inspection Service -
Place Victor Horta, 40, box 10,
Tel: +32 2 524 95 64 (inspectors, dangerous substances and preparations)
Tel: +32 2 524 95 65 (inspectors, biocides)
Tel: +32 2 524 95 62 (waste in transit)
Tel: +32 2 524 95 64 (inspection of products)
General fax: +32 2 524 96 36
Please apply in writing
- by post to:
Federal Public Service for Public Health, Food-Chain Safety and Environment
Place Victor Horta, 40, box 10
- by fax: +32 2/524.96.00
- by e-mail to email@example.com
Published on 16/11/2010 – Page last updated on 16/11/2010