Chemicals, through the different steps from their production to their handling and transport and use, are potentially a real danger for human beings and the environment.
To face this danger, a number of countries and organizations have already developed laws or regulations that require information to be prepared and transmitted to those using chemicals, through labels or Safety Data Sheets (SDS). However, while these existing laws or regulations are similar in many respects, their differences are significant enough to result in different labels or SDS for the same product in different coutries and regions around the globe.
Given the reality of the extensive and increasing global trade in chemicals, the need for developing an internationally-harmonized approach to classification and labelling was identified at United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, 1992).
It was recognized that having an internationally-harmonized approach to classification and labelling would improve the consistency and the appropriateness of the information circulated on chemicals and ultimately enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport and use of these chemicals.
This new approach, called the "Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)”, addresses the classification of chemicals based on the types of hazards posed by those chemicals and proposes harmonized hazard communication including labels and safety data sheets.
In addition to the harmonisation of the various existing C&L systems and the rules for transportation of dangerous goods, GHS also has the aim to serve as a harmonised basis for those countries that do not yet have, but want to establish a classification, labelling and hazard communication system. To allow for gradual implementation of harmonisation in countries that already have an existing system, GHS uses a building block approach, in order to allow countries to decide up to which level they want to go and/ or allow countries or regions with existing systems to retain aspects that are not yet part of GHS.
The UN Committee of Experts for the Transport of Dangerous Goods and the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals formally adopted the GHS in December 2002. The first revised edition of the GHS was adopted in December 2004 and published in 2005.
The United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), acting as an international regulation can be found here: GHS Regulation