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Chemical product safety

TAG overview

Many of our chemical products have intrinsic hazardous properties. Therefore, we are working to minimize the potential risks to both human health and the environment that arise from their use. We continuously strive to improve the safety of our products and reduce the environmental impact of our businesses through innovative solutions and digital communication tools.

Our approach to safe chemical products

Product safety is one of our top priorities. During the product development phase, we investigate the potential adverse impacts of chemical substances. Along the entire value chain of our products – from raw materials to manufacture and commercialization – we provide relevant information on their hazardous properties and how to deal with them. These instructions facilitate the safe handling and use of our products in line with pertinent regulatory requirements. We publish this information primarily on the relevant digital channels. As paper safety data sheets are still common in some countries, we can also provide these upon request through our customer service.

We support the implementation of the European Green Deal and are preparing to integrate the relevant chemicals sustainability aspects into our business strategies.

An important topic arising from the European Green Deal is the universal PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) restriction proposal submitted in January 2023 by five national authorities to the European Chemicals Agency. Products based on PFAS play an essential role in our three business sectors (Life Science, Healthcare and Electronics) and are valuable to society in various ways. For example, they enable the manufacture of products and services that address medical needs, accelerate drug development and manufacturing, aid the discovery of new treatments for challenging diseases, and enable more intelligent electronic devices. However, very persistent PFAS may lead to adverse effects for the environment and humans. We therefore support the search for substitutes for PFAS and conduct active research ourselves. As part of our mission to advance human progress, we fully support the ambition for smart and targeted PFAS regulations. We are actively searching for PFAS substitutes and conducting research into viable alternatives.

Roles and responsibilities

Our Life Science, Healthcare and Electronics business sectors have organizational structures in place to implement our product safety strategy in line with their respective business requirements and customer needs. This approach includes registering chemicals, classifying hazardous substances and highlighting risks using safety data sheets, labels and digital communication tools.

Our Group standard provides a framework for governing the setup of effective operational processes for product safety, hazard communication and chemical regulatory compliance throughout our business sectors. In addition, the Group Chemicals Regulations Council fosters cross-sectoral alignment of strategic regulatory activities required for existing and emerging chemicals regulations as well as sustainability and identifies potential impacts for our company.

This approach also applies to innovative fields of development such as nanomaterials, which we use with the greatest of care in line with the precautionary principle. Furthermore, our Group-wide Policy for Use and Handling of Nanomaterials provides the necessary guidance on the use of these materials.

Legal requirements and internal guidelines

Our internal standard defines the roles, responsibilities and basic processes required to comply with national and international regulations. In addition, we have also endorsed voluntary commitments of the chemical industry such as the Responsible Care® Global Charter.

The legal requirements relevant to compliance with chemicals regulations are mainly related to hazard communication as well as local and regional chemical registration activities. These requirements are expanding globally, with a growing number of countries adapting their local rules in line with existing regulatory frameworks such as REACH. Our organizational setup enables us to comply with regulations of this kind in important markets, such as China, India, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Using the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) for hazard communication enables us to streamline our internal processes and provide consistent, harmonized and high-quality information to our customers.

Our worldwide network of regulatory experts in all three business sectors continuously monitors changes to legal requirements and scientific developments to stay abreast of trends and best practices.

In 2023, there was one incident of non-compliance with regulations concerning potential health and safety impacts and the labeling of our chemical products. Some information and the REACH registration number was missing on a safety data sheet which resulted in a fine in Italy. In this regard, to the best of our knowledge, there were no negative impacts on human health or the environment.

Safety analysis of our products

Safe and sustainable by design implies that product safety starts during development. Therefore, at an early stage of our product development process, we analyze innovations in terms of their impacts on human health and the environment. We continuously evaluate the intrinsic hazards of both our existing and new products to create relevant product safety information in line with applicable rules.

Product safety information

Chemical product safety is all about protecting human health and the environment from adverse impacts resulting from the use of chemical products throughout their life cycle. To achieve this, we provide relevant information to our customers and the public, which helps to raise awareness of the hazards and build a greater understanding of how to mitigate risks and use the products safely.

To obtain the relevant information on hazard profiles, we employ industry-standard digital tools through which we gather information available on the substances we use. We then cross-reference this data with local and regional rules to establish the relevant hazard classifications. We publish this information digitally on country-specific safety data sheets in multiple languages and on the labels of our products. The data sheets are maintained electronically and updated if there are relevant changes. We have automated and standardized most of our hazard communication processes.

For products with little available information, we are investigating the feasibility of using alternative predictive non-animal testing methods, such as read-across and (Q)SAR. In 2023, we successfully used (Q)SAR and read-across-derived data to register products under the Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals in Korea (known as “Korea REACH”). For third-party products, we expect robust product safety documentation from our suppliers, which we feed into our processes or share directly with our customers.

Helping customers access safety information

Our Life Science customers and all interested stakeholders can access product safety information in their respective language and according to country-specific regulations through a dedicated mobile app called My M Safety (Android and iOS). Customers can retrieve this information by scanning a barcode on the product label or entering identifiers such as material numbers, names or CAS numbers.

Through our ScIDeEx™ web tool, anyone can check whether using a particular chemical is safe within the boundaries specified in the EU REACH exposure scenarios. ScIDeEx™ is based on a full implementation of the ECETOC TRA 3 model for human exposure assessments in industrial and professional settings.

Project M-SPOT: Our Sustainable Portfolio Transformation

In July 2023, we started to apply a portfolio sustainability assessment approach based on the industry standard of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Initially, we started implementing it in our Life Science and Electronics business sectors. Our Healthcare business sector will be included in the framework in 2024. Using M-SPOT, we are systematically developing a baseline for the sustainability performance of our product portfolio. We will determine the ratio of our sales from the most relevant products within defined performance categories. This performance data will enable us to set corporate, sector and business segment sustainability targets for strategic portfolio steering.

Structure-activity relationship (SAR) and quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) models – collectively referred to as (Q)SARs – are mathematical models that can be used to predict the physicochemical, biological and environmental fate properties of compounds from the knowledge of their chemical structures. These models are available for free or as commercial software.
Exposure assessment
Exposure assessment aims to make a quantitative or qualitative estimate of the dose / concentration of the substance to which humans and the environment are or may be exposed. Exposure assessment under REACH consists of two steps: 1) development of exposure scenarios and 2) exposure estimation. These steps must be iterated until it can be concluded that the resulting exposure scenarios would ensure adequate control of risks upon implementation.
Short for “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals”. This refers to an international standard system to classify chemicals. It covers labeling as well as safety data sheets.

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