The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals—Explaining the Legal Implementation Gap

Abstract - The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is a system for classifying and labelling chemicals according to their intrinsic hazardous properties. The GHS is one of the cornerstones of sound chemicals management, an issue consistently on the international sustainable development agenda since 1992. In 2002, it was agreed under the United Nations that all countries should be encouraged to implement the GHS by 2008. However, to date, it is unclear where, how, and to what extent the GHS has been implemented and what factors best explain any differences in implementation coverage.

The aim of this paper is to provide a global overview of current GHS implementation status in national legislation using primary and secondary data, and explain differences between countries based on theory on motivational and capacity-related factors for implementation of international standards. We conclude that there seems to be broad support from countries for enhanced international collaboration in the field of sound chemicals management. However, several drivers and barriers for national GHS implementation co-exist, and there is a clear positive correlation between the financial and regulatory capacities of a country and its GHS implementation status. At the same time, our data suggest that it is possible to increase the global implementation coverage by using a combination of motivational and capacity related strategies.

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