Incorrect use of chemicals can result in serious accidents. That is why the labels of many household products often show one or more hazard pictograms. These hazard symbols convey which possible risks are associated with the use. However, new types of hazard pictograms are in circulation since 2009, besides the existing ones. This as a result of the new European CLP legislation (Regulation 1272/2008 of 16 December 2008 regarding the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures), which ensures that the pictograms are uniform in all of Europe and in a large number of countries all over the world. The advantage of the new system is that hazardous substances will be classified and labelled in the same way almost everywhere in the world, with better protection of the user and the environment as a result thereof. The new hazard symbols will appear on more and more products in the coming months and years.
The existing legislation is evolving completely…
Suppliers of hazardous substances and mixtures have been obligated for quite some time to provide their labels with pictograms that show which hazards their products imply. These pictograms consist of an orange square with a black image inside. Think for example of the symbol of a flame for flammable products, a skull for toxic substances, a St. Andrew's cross for harmful or irritating chemicals, ... However, this existing symbolism will gradually be replaced by new CLP pictograms. This operation must be completed no later than June 2017 and by then not a single product may further be provided with the orange squares!
What does CLP change about the hazard symbols?
Since 2010, more and more products can be seen in the market which have been provided with the new CLP hazard symbols. These symbols have a different shape in comparison with the existing orange squares. Now, these symbols are black images on a white background, surrounded by a red edge in the shape of a diamond. Additionally, 3 new symbols have been introduced: the exclamation mark (if an acute health effect may occur), the silhouette (for long-term health effects) and the gas cylinder (pressurised container). The last two symbols do not even have a counterpart in the existing system. They each represent newly defined hazard classes and categories within CLP. The exclamation mark on the other hand, replaces the existing St. Andrew's cross for harmful or irritating chemicals.
A useful overview table “Hazard pictograms” contains a comparison between the existing and new hazard pictograms. Since the 1st of December 2010 the new symbols have been mandatory for new substances; from the 1st of June 2015 the same applies to new mixtures. Stocks of existing substances or mixtures will be granted a transitional period of 2 years for adjusting their pictograms to the new CLP standards.
You can find an overview of all changes on the ECHA website.