What Do Warning Signs Actually Mean?
What do a dead fish, a man with an exploding chest and a skull have in common? Apart from possibly appearing in the surrealist paintings of Salvador Dali, they're all warning symbols you can find on CLP - Classification, Labelling and Packaging - labels. But what on earth do these warning signs mean, and why do we need them in first place?
An EU Law first introduced CLP in 2009 and they've been regularly updated ever since to ensure all products are properly labelled depending on the percentage of potentially harmful ingredients in them.
Can't we just use 'common' sense'?
While you might suppose it would go without saying you shouldn't leave toddlers alone in a room where a candle's burning or drink molten wax and take a swig from a diffuser, the CLP regulations are there to protect you. The symbols and 'signal words' let medical professionals know exactly what's in the product if, for example, a young child tried teething on a candle or thought your diffuser was a delicious drink. A paramedic looking at the label would know exactly which ingredients are in the product and what actions they may need to take.
Also, there's an awful lot of misinformation out there about "clean vs toxic". For example, thinking that 'all natural' ingredients can't be dangerous. In fact, pure essential oils can be some of the most potentially allergenic substances. And don't forget, many of the scents found in natural oils produced by plants are actually part of the plant's naturally evolved defence mechanism to repel insects - effectively an insecticide. So it's good to remember that completely natural substances are still chemicals.
What's with the dead fish?
The dead fish doesn't mean if you dropped the candle into a lake, fish will die. They won't. The symbol relates to any ingredients where if you dumped a whole barrel into the water they'd harm the environment. Similarly, the 'exploding chest' chap shows ingredients which could cause internal corrosion if consumed.
We know they can be confusing, so here's a guide to decoding your warning signs...
What's on the label?
1 - Product Identifiers: The name of the product/fragrance
2 - Allergen Information: Named ingredients known as possibly allergenic.
3 - Signal Word: 'Danger' for the most potentially harmful substances or 'Warning' for less severe hazards.
4 - Hazard & Precautionary Statements: Describes the nature and severity of the hazards in your product.
5 - Hazard Pictograms: Warning images that communicate the level of possible hazard.
6 - The Name, Address and Telephone Number of the Supplier: Makes sure you're buying a reputable product and can contact the supplier for more information, if required.