DC, August 30, 2004 (ENS): The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to revise its policies
to be consistent with a newly agreed international sytem
of classifying and labeling chemicals, the Globally
Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of
Chemicals, or GHS.
The change will take place in multiple stages over several
years, the EPA says, given the size and scale of the
pesticide market in the United States and the importance
of label review in the U.S. system of pesticide regulation.
At the international level, bodies such as the World
Summit on Sustainable Development and the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation forum have set goals for GHS implementation
in the 2006-2008 time frame. "This is a very ambitious
goal for pesticides," the EPA said in a position
statement on Friday.
In its statement, known as a White Paper, the EPA outlines
its current thinking and invites public comment on how
to implement the GHS in ways that will maximize the
benefits of harmonization while minimizing the burden
on stakeholders and the agency.
In the United States alone, chemicals constitute more
than $450 billion in business, and exports exceed $80
billion per year.
The GHS sets out hazard classification criteria and
key label elements, including symbols, signal words
such as "danger" or "warning," depending
on the severity of the hazard, and hazard statements
such as "causes skin irritation."
Existing systems for providing information are not
always compatible and often require multiple labels
and safety data sheets for the same product both within
the United States and in international trade. Chemical
companies find these conflicting requirements onerous,
and consumers can find the different labels are confusing.
"Users may see inconsistent label warnings or
safety data sheet information for the same chemical,"
the EPA said. Companies involved in international trade
need to follow multiple regulations regarding hazard
classification and labeling depending on where they
"In addition to being costly and time-consuming,
this complicates compliance efforts and can result in
barriers to international trade in chemicals,"
the agency said.
The regulation that is being changed is 40 CFR 156
Labeling Requirements for Pesticides and Devices. It
deals with hazardous properties and control measures
aimed at ensuring the safe production, transport, use,
and disposal of chemicals.
The agency says it is open to recommendations on other
rules or laws that need to be changed, asking the public,
"Do you have recommendations on additional regulations,
in addition to 40 CFR 156, which you believe may warrant
review and possible revision in connection with GHS
EPA will "consider all comments submitted by the
public," the agency said but is especially interested
"in hearing from our stakeholders" on a voluntary
pilot project, a time frame for the rule change, suggestions
on work-sharing with North American Free Trade Agreement
Technical Working Group, and reccomendations on outreach
and education. The proposals are available for review