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GHS, CLP, REACH, ECHA - What Do They All Mean?

Chemical Abbreviations - what are they and what do they all mean? Here's a quick guide to help you.


GHS - Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling chemicals

The current system, CHIP (Chemical Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Law, set by the Dangerous Substances Directive (DSD) and the Dangerous Preparations Directive (DPD) that many chemical companies will be familiar with, is now being replaced by the GHS set by the direct-acting European CLP Regulation.

CLP - Classification, Labelling and Packaging

The CLP Regulation entered into force in January 2009, and the method of classifying and labelling chemicals it introduced is based on the United Nations' Globally Harmonised System (GHS). 

The CLP Regulation ensures that the hazards presented by chemicals are clearly communicated to workers and consumers in the European Union through classification and labelling of chemicals.

The Regulation replaces over time two previous pieces of legislation, the Dangerous Substances Directive and the Dangerous Preparations Directive. There is a transition period until 2015.

Before placing chemicals on the market, the industry must establish the potential risks to human health and the environment of such substances and mixtures, classifying them in line with the identified hazards. The hazardous chemicals also have to be labelled according to a standardised system so that workers and consumers know about their effects before they handle them.

Thanks to this process, the hazards of chemicals are communicated through standard statements and pictograms on labels and safety data sheets. For example, when a supplier identifies a substance as "acute toxicity category 1 (oral)", the labelling will include the hazard statement "fatal if swallowed", the word "Danger" and a pictogram with a skull and crossbones.

REACH - Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals 

REACH is a European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals. It came into force on 1st June 2007 and replaced a number of European Directives and Regulations with a single system.

REACH has several aims:

  • To provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals.
  • To make the people who place chemicals on the market (manufacturers and importers responsible for understanding and managing the risks associated with their use.)
  • To allow the free movement of substances on the EU market.
  • To enhance innovation in and the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry.
  • To promote the use of alternative methods for the assessment of the hazardous properties of substances e.g. quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) and read across.

Scope and Exemptions
REACH applies to substances manufactured or imported into the EU in quantities of 1 tonne or more per year. Generally, it applies to all individual chemical substances on their own, in preparations or in articles (if the substance is intended to be released during normal and reasonably foreseeable conditions of use from an article).

Some substances are specifically excluded:

  • Radioactive substances
  • Substances under customs supervision
  • The transport of substances
  • Non-isolated intermediates
  • Waste
  • Some naturally occurring low-hazard substances

ECHA - The European Chemicals Agency is the European agency and will follow up the REACH processes for Europe.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is the driving force among regulatory authorities in implementing the EU's groundbreaking chemicals legislation for the benefit of human health and the environment as well as for innovation and competitiveness. ECHA helps companies to comply with the legislation, advances the safe use of chemicals, provides information on chemicals and addresses chemicals of concern.

The ECHA protects human health and the environment. Their work helps ensure that chemicals are used safely and that the most hazardous ones are substituted by safer alternatives.

• help companies to comply with the legislation
• advance the safe use of chemicals
• address chemicals of concern
• provide information on chemicals

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