Hazardous chemical products must be labelled with danger symbols and text containing information about the hazard. Information about how to protect oneself and handle the product in a safe way must also be stated. The companies manufacturing, importing or selling the product are responsible for ensuring that it is labelled correctly.
Every year children and adults are harmed by chemical products, sometimes so seriously that they need hospital treatment. This is because we do not use the products in the right way. Examples of common household chemical products are detergents of different kinds, dishwasher tablets, solvents, lamp oil, lighting fluids, paints and drain cleaners.
General tips when using and storing chemicals:
- Keep chemicals in their original packaging. Do not pour into lemonade bottles, mugs or the like.
- Look for any danger symbols and read the information given. Follow the instructions on the label.
- Avoid skin contact, eye contact and inhalation of the chemicals.
- Keep them out of reach of children.
- If a poisoning accident occurs, call 112 and ask for the Poison Centre (Giftinformation). You will find further information on the Swedish Poisons Information Centre website.
- Consider the environment when you dispose of leftover chemicals or empty packaging.
If the product is labelled with a danger symbol, read the information on protecting yourself and handling the product correctly.
In addition to the visible danger symbol, some products have a tactile warning label and a child-resistant fastening.
Examples of tactile warning labels and a child-resistant fastening in the form of a bottle stopper that is difficult for a small child to open.
Two different types of warning labels
There are at present two different types of warning labels that we as consumers need to be aware of. Previous rules and regulations requiring the danger symbol to have an orange background are being replaced by new ones requiring a white background and a red frame, known as hazard pictograms. As of 1 June 2017, only the new symbols will be permitted on products for sale in shops. One advantage of the new symbols is that they will look the same in countries throughout the world, and this will ensure our increased safety when purchasing products abroad.
Irritating or corrosive products
A product with any of these danger symbols may be corrosive, irritating or harmful to the skin, eyes or respiratory tract. Some may cause a severe allergic reaction. If the product is corrosive, it may cause serious damage even after only brief contact, such as splashes in the eyes. Products containing corrosive substances such as ammonia, lye and certain acids such as vinegar (24%) may be particularly hazardous even in only small amounts.
Examples of products that may be labelled with one of these danger symbols are cleaning agents, dishwasher products, drain cleaners, decalcification products and oven cleaners. Look for any danger symbols and read the information provided.
Products hazardous to health
In addition to the harmful effects mentioned above, some products may cause serious damage to your health if you inhale them or happen to get them inside your mouth. Examples of such substances are ethylene glycol (coolant), lighting products, lamp oils and paraffin. As well as being labelled as hazardous, lamp oils and barbecue lighting fluid must be packaged in black, opaque bottles containing a maximum of 1 litre, and must be supplied with a child-resistant fastening. The aim is to minimise the risk of children tasting the product.
Toxic products or products that may cause serious or prolonged damage to health
These danger symbols are provided on products that can pose a serious danger to health. They may, for example, contain substances which are very toxic or carcinogenic, may affect the ability to have children, are harmful to an unborn child, or able to cause genetic damage (DNA). Chemicals with these properties may not as a rule be sold to the general public.
Products that are harmful to the environment
Some chemicals may be harmful to the environment, such as certain paints. If environmental toxins are released into water or forest and soil, they may be harmful to both animals and plants. They also pose an indirect risk to us as humans in the form of the food we eat and the water we drink.
Consider the environment when disposing of any residue. Let an environmental waste disposal station take care of chemical residue. Do not dump residue down the drain.
Corrosive or explosive products
Many products are hazardous due to their physical properties, such as flammability, explosivity or oxidisation. Every year children, adults and property are damaged by fire resulting from the incorrect or inappropriate handling of flammable fluids or explosive products. Examples of flammable fluids are petrol, diesel and lamp oil, or solvents such as acetone, turpentine and white spirit. Fireworks, gas, LPG cylinders and spray cans are examples of products which might explode if exposed to heat.
Ensure that flammable and explosive products are stored safely. Find out more about the handling and storage of these products on the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency website.
Some products, such as toys and electric and electronic equipment in the home, must have CE marking. CE marking is proof that your product meets European safety requirements and helps you to choose safe products. Checks have shown, however, that this is not always the case. The companies themselves apply CE marking to their products without any external inspection on a regular basis.
Labels similar to CE marking are not permitted, and products requiring CE marking may not be labelled in this way. Markings which resemble CE marking are not permitted, and products which do not require CE marking may not have such marking either.
Learn more about CE marking on the Swedish Standards Institute.
Learn more about CE marking on Your Europe.
There are a number of other labelling symbols relating to the environment, energy, justice, organic production and recycling, all of which can help us as consumers to make conscious choices.
You will find further information about markings and different symbols on the Swedish Consumer Agency website Hallå Konsument.