Chemicals are considered potentially dangerous. Even chemicals that we don't consider dangerous in our day-today lives, e.g. salt, sugar and water. Chemicals are not something to be afraid of, but they do need to be handled with the proper respect! Even chemicals like water, sugar and salt. On a daily basis, in the kitchen, the three chemicals are not something we need to be particularly vigilant about, when we use them, but working with them on a large scale, e.g. in tonnes for production, you suddenly have a lot of considerations like suffocation if you fall into the container, dust explosion and many other things. The amount needed, before it becomes a risk using something, depends on the chemical and how it is used. Therefore: Do not fear the chemicals, but have the proper respect.
How do you know what the proper respect is? All chemicals and mixtures of chemicals MUST be labelled with the correct hazard symbols and hazard and precaution statements, if applicable. As to whether there are hazard symbols and hazard and precaution statements, and if so, what they are, can be seen in what is called the material safety data sheet (MSDS). The MSDS is an mandatory document for chemicals and mixtures of chemicals, containing information on what the chemical is, how dangerous it is and how to handle it, e.g. regarding storage, spills and transportation. An MSDS must be available in the language of the country where it is sold, i.e. if the chemical is sold in Denmark, the MSDS must be available in Danish.
Note: Product data sheets and material safety data sheets are NOT the same!
Legislation pertaining chemical safety
Because chemicals are considered potentially dangerous, and some of them actually are dangerous or involve some risk at exposure, there is, to protect the common citizen, a number of rules and regulations regarding chemicals. Of these, the prevailing rule is REACH.
REACH is an EU regulation regarding chemicals and the use of these (EC 1907/2006). The regulation went info force June 1, 2007, and is about common guidelines for registration, evaluation, authorization and setting limitations on the indstrial use of chemicals.
The purpose of REACH is to improve the lives of the Europeans by quicker identification of the properties of chemicals and remove hazardous chemicals from the various product groups. A part of the philosophy is that, as you get more information on the chemicals, you have an ongoing replacement of chemicals with something less hazardous, while still taking economic responsibility into consideration.
Spun off from this is a number of regulations regarding specific uses, e.g. electric/electronic equipment and materials for food contact.
The RoHS directive is EU’s directive no. 2002/95/EC. The name RoHS is an acronym for Restriction of the Use of certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical Equipment i.e. a limitation in the use of certain chemicals in electric and electronic equipment.
The RoHS directive prohibits the use of the following chemicals in electric and electronic equipment, sold in the EU, from July 1, 2006:
Hexavalent chrome (chrom(VI))
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)