Pesticide labeling rules to be globally harmonized

WASHINGTON, 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 do business."

"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 implementation?"

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 at:

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