8 Global Harmonization of Hazard Classification System (GHS)
Hazard classification systems have been developed in various jurisdictions to provide information on the toxic effects of chemicals to protect human health. They are used for communicating information on chemical hazards to workers or other end users so that appropriate precautions can be taken for safe chemical use. Hazard classification systems are usually incorporated into sector-specific regulations for transport, consumer products, and occupational health. Due to differences in chemical use and exposure, hazard classification schemes vary between sectors and within sectors among countries.
Toxicity classification criteria for chemicals in the workplace are included in the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) and the Canadian Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) legislation (74). In general, chemicals are categorized by toxic end points (e.g., acute toxicity, cancer, irritation, sensitization etc.) based on evaluation of the toxicological evidence against set classification criteria. Untested product mixtures are classified by the toxic effects of the ingredients using cutoff concentrations. Toxicity classification systems are usually based on the inherent toxicity of the chemical (e.g., cancer induced in rodents via oral administration) rather than on the risks that a chemical poses to human health under given exposures.
The OECD Advisory Group on Harmonization of Hazard Classification and Labeling was established 1994 to develop proposals for a harmonized classification system for the hazards of chemicals to human health and the environment (2). Member countries in this initiative include the United States, Canada, and the European Community (EC). Recently, the OECD released a report endorsing harmonized hazard classification criteria for acute toxicity, skin irritation/corrosion, eye irritation/corrosion, respiratory or skin sensitization, mutations in germ cells, cancer, and reproductive toxicity. The acute toxicity criteria in several jurisdictions and those endorsed by the OECD are compared in Table 10.3 (74). The OECD harmonized hazard classification system may eventually be implemented globally.
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