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Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)
Chemicals, through the different steps from their production to their handling, transport and use, are a real danger for human health and the environment. People of any ages, from children to elderly, using many different languages and alphabets, belonging to various social conditions, including illiterates, are daily confronted to dangerous products (chemicals, pesticides, etc.)
To face this danger, and given the reality of the extensive global trade in chemicals and the need to develop national programs to ensure their safe use, transport and disposal, it was recognized that an internationally-harmonized approach to classification and labelling would provide the foundation for such programs. Once countries have consistent and appropriate information on the chemicals they import or produce in their own countries, the infrastructure to control chemical exposures and protect people and the environment can be established in a comprehensive manner.
The new GHS system addresses classification of chemicals by types of hazard and proposes harmonized hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets. It aims at ensuring that information on physical hazards and toxicity from chemicals be available in order to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport and use of these chemicals. The GHS also provides a basis for harmonization of rules and regulations on chemicals at national, regional and worldwide level, an important factor also for trade facilitation.
The first edition of the GHS, which was intended to serve as the initial basis for the global implementation of the system, was approved by the Committee of Experts at its first session (11-13 December 2002) and published in 2003.
At its second session (10 December 2004), the Committee of Experts adopted a set of amendments to the GHS, which were consolidated in document ST/SG/AC.10/C.3/32/Add.3 and ST/SG/AC.10/C.3/32/Add.3/Corr.1. This first revised edition of the GHS (GHS Rev.1) takes account of all these amendments, which include various revised provisions concerning classification and labelling, new provisions for aspiration hazards and new guidance on the use of precautionary statements and pictograms and on the preparation of safety data sheets.
While governments, regional institutions and international organizations are the primary audiences for the GHS, it also contains sufficient context and guidance for those in industry who will ultimately be implementing the requirements which have been adopted.
Countries are encouraged to implement the GHS as soon as possible with a view to having the system fully operational by 2008.