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Understanding Chemical Labels

What you need to know to ensure safe use of detergent, cleaning and maintenance products

Detergent, cleaning and maintenance products are used everyday and everywhere, in homes, industrial and institutional domains, such as schools, hospitals, factories etc. They serve to remove all kinds of dirt from clothing and other articles, ensure hygiene and promote health and well-being.  If these products are used incorrectly they can lead to accidents, so it is very important to read the label and understand the pictograms (symbols) and information printed on it.

New regulatory safety information will soon be appearing on chemical mixtures, including household cleaning products.  The changes are coming gradually so that, for a while, both the old and new symbols will be present.  By 2017, all product labels will have to carry the new pictograms.

New Pictograms

The well-known black and orange hazard symbols and the accompanying statements provide guidance to identify whether the products are classified as corrosive, toxic, oxidising, highly or extremely flammable, harmful, irritant, or dangerous for the environment.  The new hazard pictograms are quite similar to the old ones except for the different shape and colour, which is a black symbol on a white background with a red frame square set at a point. 

There are two completely new pictograms, which are both related to human health hazard, which may be present on the label of detergent, cleaning and maintenance products.  The ‘exclamation mark’ pictogram indicates health hazards like skin irritation or sensitisation, serious eye irritation, or that a product could be harmful if swallowed.  The ‘health hazard’ pictogram indicates more severe health hazards.  These new pictograms can be seen instead of the old St. Andrew’s cross symbol, which is being phased out.

To view New CLP Pictograms CLICK HERE

New Wording

The pictograms are accompanied by signal words, hazard and precautionary statements.   The signal word indicates the relative level of severity of the particular hazard of the product.  On the label, the signal word ‘danger’ will be seen if the product has severe hazards, while for products with less severe hazards, the word ‘warning’ will be present.

Signal words are followed by one or more:

Hazard Statements (e.g. “Harmful if swallowed”, “May cause respiratory irritation”, etc.)

Precautionary Statements (e.g. “Keep out of reach of children”, “Do not handle until all safety precautions have been read and understood”, etc.)

This information provides safety advice to help prevent or minimise adverse effects to human health or the environment arising from the hazards of the product one intends to use.

For chemical products bought in Malta and Gozo this information will be available in English and/or Maltese.

Read the Label!

Chemical products have information about safely using the product – it is important to read carefully and follow this advice.  Any hazards present are indicated by pictograms and statements while the relevant precautions, like wearing gloves or eye protection, are listed on the label.

To view an example of a label of a cleaning product according to the CLP Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 CLICK HERE