Carefully assessing product safety
Great cleaning and maintenance products rely on great chemical formulas to get the job done. Manufacturers make every effort to ensure that their products are safe for use through rigorous testing and by providing ‘easy-to-follow’ instructions and labeling . But how do manufacturers determine what is safe and what is not? How are levels of ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’ established?
When dealing with the safety characteristics of chemical ingredients, it is important to understand the precise meaning of the terminology used. For example, many people use the terms “hazard” and “risk” as if interchangeable, but in fact these words have very different meanings!
Risk? Hazard ? Exposure ? What's the difference?
A chemical's 'hazard' is its intrinsic ability to cause adverse effects.
The 'risk' is the likelihood that those effects will occur in the applications in which the chemical is used.
The way in which an object or a situation may cause harm to health and/or the environment
The extent to which the likely recipient of the harm is exposed to – or can be influenced by – the hazard
The chance that the harm will actually occur
Crossing the road, for example, is a hazardous action, since it could end up in an accident. But no one suggests banning it: in this case, the guidelines and safety measures under which the action is performed reduce the risk to acceptable levels. The same principle can be applied to chemicals.
For a chemical, a risk assessment must take into account not only the intrinsic hazards of that chemical but also how those hazards can be mitigated by limiting exposure to acceptable levels. It is therefore essential to provide information on chemicals based on hazards and risk assessments, in order to provide customers and end-users with a proper understanding of the safety issues involved. By doing so, the industry demonstrates its commitment to the responsible use of its products, both for human safety and for the environment.
For further reading:
- Cefic: Risk and Hazard - How they differ
- Common A.I.S.E/Cefic risk assessment project
Managing Chemicals: Assessing and Managing Risk
To manage risk, manufacturers of products that use chemical ingredients take into account the conclusions of the risk assessments when developing their formulas. Based on these conclusions, they determine how risk can be reduced and communicate to customers and end-users the relevant information on how to use the product safely and the appropriate risk-reduction measures to take. This information is communicated through various channels, including the manufacturer’s website, customer-care line and the label or packaging of the product itself.