PRIO – A tool for Risk Reduction of Chemicals

Hazard assessment

Hazard assessment - how hazardous is this substance?

You must know about the chemicals and articles that you are dealing with so that you in turn can inform users about the possible risks when they are being used. When assessing a chemical product it is necessary to be aware of the clear difference between the terms "hazard" and "risk". When assessing the "hazard" posed by a chemical, it is the intrinsic properties that are to be checked. Acute toxicity, corrosive properties the ability to bring about allergies and reluctance to break down in the ground or water are examples of intrinsic properties that can be hazardous to health or the environment.

You can search through PRIO to find a number of substances with hazardous properties. However not all substances are present in the database, depending among other things on the fact that there is an overwhelming number of substances where there is insufficient information available. Safety data sheets are an important source, where you should be able to find the hazardous properties of the chemical substances.

You can always ask your supplier for this information.

The particularly hazardous properties selected in PRIO specially take into account the long term effects. These are summarised in the tables below. See also the Criteria. Other hazardous properties such as acute effects also have an important place in the risk assessment. If you deal with many chemical substances and products it is a good idea to draw up a list of chemicals, see the example in Taking inventory.

Where can I find information about health and environmental properties?

The PRIO tool criteria are based on the properties of individual substances. Find therefore the properties of the substances that are included in your product/article when you compare with the PRIO criteria.

Saftey data sheets – an important part of the work

The classification of a substance is an important aid to the work of obtaining information about the substance properties. Classification is based on the intrinsic properties of a substance and consists of risk phrases and hazard notations. The risk phrases describe these properties and should be stated in the safety data sheet that must be issued for chemical products that are hazardous to health or the environment. Remember that safety data sheets are written for individual chemical products and that certain products may consist of several chemical substances.

If there is any information that you think is missing from a safety data sheet, or something you do not understand, you should contact the chemical supplier and ask for help. The telephone number of a contact person must be included in item 1 of the sheet.

In cases where the safety data sheet does not provide sufficient information about the hazardous porperties to health or the environment, you can go further and search for example in the databases that are linked to the Swedish Chemicals Agency web site.

Where can I find information about the hazardous substances in articles?

Articles may also contain or be treated with chemical substances that may be hazardous to humans or the environment. The health and environmental assessment of articles is therefore just as important a part of the risk reduction work as that for chemical products. This is particularly important in respect of articles with which people and the environment come into close contact. Examples of such articles can be toys, clothing, furniture, car tyres, building items, electronic equipment and jewellery.

The key to obtaining information concerning which chemical substances are contained in an article is to find out which materials the article is a collection of, read more in Articles and Materials. This information along with knowledge of the commonly occurring substances in various material categories such as paper, plastic, rubber, etc. provide a valuable guide when searching for possible substances that are hazardous to health and the environment. It can sometimes be difficult to find out the material composition of a product, e.g. in the case of imported products. This makes it more difficult to assess the hazardous properties of an article.

Certain article categories have special product information, e.g. the declaration of building materials, which includes information concerning hazardous substances. Contact your supplier if you cannot determine the content of an article.

How do I get information about health and environmental properties?

With the aid of risk phrases that are put into safety data sheets and labelling you can assess whether the substance has such hazardous health or environmental properties that it is covered by the PRIO tool's criteria.

If in the product's safety data sheet there is a risk phrase that is present in the PRIO tool's criteria, the substance has an applicable risk phrase or is either a prioritised risk reduction substance or a substance due to be phased out.

In all cases of handling chemicals, one must always consider what risks handling can involve. In the case of substances covered by the PRIO criteria you must be particularly careful and systematic.

The European Chemicals Agency published in 2012 an inventory open to the public where all substances that are covered by CLP and that are classified as hazardous are included. The producers and importers own classifications are available here, as well as all harmonised classifications in the EU. From 1 December 2010, manufacturers and importers are required to provide information to the inventory.

Health hazard properties

The following table shows the risk phrases that mean that the substance is either a prioritised risk reduction substance or a substance due to be phased out. Compare the substance risk phrases with the information in the table to see if the substance is covered by the criteria.

Phase-out substance   Priority risk-reduction substance  
Carcinogenic (category 1A and 1B) H350  Very high acute toxicity H300, H310, H330, H370
Mutagenic (category 1A and 1B) H340  Allergenic H317, H334
 Toxic to reproduction (category 1A and 1B) H360  High chronic toxicity H372
 Endocrine disrupter see more information and criteria in detail  Mutagenic (category 2) H341
 Particularly hazardous metals (Cd, Hg, Pb) see more information and criteria in detail    

The basis of your assessment is in the safety data sheets, items 2, 3, 11 and 15.

  • Item 2 – Hazards identification
    Here the dangerous characteristics of the preparation are stated. This information must agree with the labelling, but need not repeat it.
  • Item 3 – Composition/Information on ingredients
    Here are defined the risk phrases for the substances in preparations that are classified as hazards to health. An example of a classification is H350 which means that the substance can cause cancer.
  • Item 11 – Toxicological information
    Here the product's health hazard properties are described in more detail than in item 3. The negative health effects, with descriptions of symptoms, are to be defined for different methods of exposure. Both immediate and delayed, transitory and permanent effects must be stated. Short term, repeated and long term exposure must be taken into account.
  • Item 15 – Applicable regulations
    Here can be found the risk phrases for this particular preparation. The risk and protection information that appears on package labelling shall be present in this item.

Environmental hazard properties

The following table shows the risk phrases and other descriptions of hazardous properties that mean that the substance is either a prioritised risk reduction substance or a substance due to be phased out. Compare the risk phrases for the substance with the information in the table to see if the substance is covered by the criteria.

Phase-out substance   Priority risk-reduction substance  
Particularly hazardous metals (Cd, Hg, Pb) see more information and criteria in detail Environmentally hazardous, long-term effects H410, H413
PBT /vPvB – Persistent, Bioaccumulative, Toxic / very Persistent, very Bioaccmulative Here you must use test data or other data to see whether the substance is covered by the criterion PBT/vPvB, see more information and criteria in detail Potential PBT / vPvB Substances for which the underlying data are insufficient to assess whether they fulfil the criteria to be a PBT / vPvB substance,  see more information and criteria in detail
Ozone-depleting substances H420, EUH059    
Endocrine disrupter see more information and criteria in detail    

The PBT characteristic refers to Persistence, Bioaccumulation and Toxicity, and signifies a substance that is stable in the environment and enriched in biological tissue, while having toxic effects. Examples of such substances are DDT and PCB.
The vPvB characteristic refers to very Persistent, very Bioaccumulative and signifies a substance that is very stable and enriched to a high degree in biological tissue.

The basis of your assessment is in the safety data sheets, items 2, 3, 12 and 15.

  • Item 2 – Hazards identification
    Here the dangerous properties of the preparation are stated. This information must agree with the labelling, but need not repeat it.
  • Item 3 – Composition/Information on ingredients
    Here are defined the risk phrases for the substances in preparations that are classified as hazards to health. An example of a classification is H410 which means that the substance is very toxic to organisms living in water and that can cause harmful long term effects in water environments.
  • Item 12 – Ecological toxicological information
    Here is described the constituent substances' degradability in Nature, their potential for bio-accumulation and toxicity for organisms living in water.
  • Item 15 – Applicable regulations
    Here can be found the risk phrases for this particular preparation. The risk and protection information that appears on package labelling shall be present in this item.

When there is no safety data sheet available

According to article 31 in the Reach regulation (EC) no 1097/2006 there must exist safety data sheets for those chemical products that are classified as hazardous to health or the environment. If a safety data sheet is missing, it can also be due to the fact that the product is not hazardous to health or the environment. When you do not have access to safety data sheets you must try to obtain the information concerning the product's health and environmental characteristics from your supplier. In the case of articles the regulations concerning safety data sheets do not apply, and thus you must use other sources of information.

When assessing whether the product is covered by the PRIO criteria you must use the complete description of the Criteria in the section concerning these.