Sources of Information on Hazardous Chemicals

There is a very wide range of sources of information on chemicals available in the public domain. This sub-section lists a limited number of sources of information on individual chemicals or groups of chemicals, including peer reviewed evaluations, information on alternatives, etc. The cited sources reflect internationally recognized sources of peer reviewed evaluations as well as those sources where evaluations have been used in support of notifications of final regulatory actions considered by the Chemical Review Committee.

In addition Article 13 of the Convention requires that for certain chemicals, exporting Parties are required to provide safety data sheets to each importer following an internationally recognized format. Subsection e) below provides information on sources of safety data sheets.

a) The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS)

The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), established in 1980, is a joint programme of three Cooperating Organizations (WHO, ILO, and UNEP) which implements activities related to chemical safety. WHO is the Executing Agency of the IPCS, and its main role is to establish the scientific basis for safe use of chemicals and to strengthen national capabilities and capacities for chemical safety.

WHO/IPCS undertakes assessments of chemicals whose objective is to provide a consensus scientific description of the risks of chemical exposures. These descriptions are published in assessment reports and other related documents so that governments and international and national organizations can use them as the basis for taking preventive actions against adverse health and environmental impacts. For example, the documents are often used as the basis for establishing guidelines and standards for the use of chemicals and for drinking water and can assist with the implementation of international agreements such as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

The following provides a very brief description of the sort of documents produced as part of the IPCS activities on the risk assessment of chemicals and the associated links to the IPCS webpages where copies of these documents can be found. In addition, many document are available on INCHEM:

  • Environmental Health Criteria documents

    Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) documents provide international critical reviews on the effects of chemicals, or combinations of chemicals, and physical and biological agents on human health and the environment. Each EHC follows a standard outline or format, including a summary followed by information on identity, sources of exposure, environmental transport, distribution and transformation, environmental levels and human exposure, kinetics and metabolism in laboratory animals and humans, effects on laboratory animals and in vitro test systems. In addition,information on effects on humans and on other organisms in the laboratory and in other different fields is included. An overall evaluation and conclusion for the protection of human health and the environment is found at the end of each document, together with needs for further research and details of previous evaluations by international bodies, e.g. IARC, JECFA. Two different series of Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) documents are available: (1) on specific chemicals or groups of related chemicals; and (2) on risk assessment methodologies. Both are accessible at:

  • Health and Safety Guides

    Health and Safety Guides (HSG) provide concise information, using non-technical language, for decision-makers on risks from exposure to chemicals, together with practical advice on medical and administrative issues. Copies of HSGs, organized in alphabetical order, are accessible at:

  • Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents (CICADs)

    Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents (CICADs) are similar to Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) documents in providing internationally accepted reviews on the effects on human health and the environment of chemicals or combinations of chemicals. They aim to characterize the hazard and dose-response of exposure to chemicals and to provide examples of exposure estimation and risk characterizations for application at the national or local level. They summarize the information considered critical for risk characterization in sufficient detail to allow independent assessment, but are concise and do not repeat all the information available on a particular chemical. For further details, readers of individual CICADs are referred to the original source document for the CICAD (either a national or regional chemical evaluation document or an existing EHC (chemicals series)).

    Copies of CICADs, organized in alphabetical and/or numerical order, are accessible at:

  • International Chemical Safety Cards

    WHO and ILO work together to produce International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSCs) which provide essential health and safety information on chemicals to promote their safe use. They are used at the "shop floor" level by workers or employees in factories, agriculture, construction and other workplaces and often form part of education and training activities. ICSCs provide information on the intrinsic hazards of specific chemicals together with first aid and fire-fighting measures, and information about precautions for spillage, disposal, storage, packaging, labelling and transport. ICSCs have no legal status and may not reflect in all cases the detailed requirements included in national legislation. They are available in a number of languages. Copies of ICSCs organized in alphabetical order are accessible at:

b) The Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues

The Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) is an international expert scientific group that is administered jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The JMPR is made up of the FAO Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the WHO Core Assessment Group. The FAO Panel of Experts is responsible for reviewing residue and analytical aspects of the pesticides under consideration, including data on their metabolism, fate in the environment and use patterns, and for estimating the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) that might occur as a result of the use of the pesticides according to good agricultural practices. The WHO Core Assessment Group is responsible for reviewing toxicological and related data and for estimating, where possible, acceptable daily intakes (ADIs) for humans of the pesticides under consideration.

  • Toxicological monographs are published after the meetings by WHO. These summarize the data used in the Meeting's evaluations and provide full references to the relevant literature. Most of the monographs that have been published are available at:
  • Residues monographs, which contain information on pesticide use patterns, data on the chemistry and composition of pesticides, methods of analysis for pesticide residues and information on pesticide MRLs,are available at:

c) International Agency for Research on Cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization. IARC coordinates and conducts research on the causes of human cancer and the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and develops scientific strategies for cancer control. The IARC Monographs identify environmental factors that can increase the risk of human cancer. These include chemicals, complex mixtures, occupational exposures, physical and biological agents, and lifestyle factors. National health agencies use this information as scientific support for their actions to prevent exposure to potential carcinogens. Interdisciplinary working groups of expert scientists review the published studies and evaluate the weight of evidence that an agent can increase the risk of cancer. The principles, procedures and scientific criteria which guide the evaluations are described in the "Preamble" to the IARC Monographs. Since 1971, more than 900 agents have been evaluated, of which approximately 400 have been identified as carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic to humans. Information on the available monographs may be found at:

d) OECD Screening Information Data Sets

The "Screening Information Data Set" (SIDS) programme, operated under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is a voluntary cooperative international testing programme that began in 1989. The SIDS programme focuses on developing base level test information on approximately 600 poorly characterized international High Production Volume (HPV) chemicals. The SIDS data are used to "screen" the chemicals and set priorities for further testing or risk assessment/management activities.

The OECD/SIDS test data set includes:

  • physico-chemical properties
  • results of environmental fate testing
  • results of environmental effects testing
  • results of health effects testing
Copies of the SIDS for individual chemicals, organized in alphabetical order, may be found at:


    e) Safety Data Sheets (SDS) on individual chemicals

    Article 13 of the Rotterdam Convention requires exporting Parties, when exporting chemicals listed in Annex III and chemicals banned or severely restricted in its territory that are to be used for occupational purposes, to provide each importer with a safety data sheet according to an internationally recognized format including all currently available information.

    Safety data sheets contain information such as: Chemical and Physical Properties, Health Hazards, First Aid Recommendations, Personal Protection, Fire and Reactivity Data, Spill and Disposal Procedures, Storage and Handling. They are designed to provide both workers and emergency personnel with the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substance. Safety Data Sheets are one of the key tools in hazard communication. A good Safety Data Sheet provides the user with the information needed to carry out a suitable risk assessment for specific applications.

    Safety data sheets are published under several names, including:


    f) Other sources of information on individual chemicals
    European Commission Chemicals Bureau

    The following link brings you to an EXCEL sheet where there is an overview of the status of existing active substances being reviewed and, where available, the outcome of that review;

    List of substances that have been evaluated are at the following link:

    Information on restrictions and bans for industrial chemicals is available at the following website:

    The most comprehensive list of all existing restrictions up to the year 2004 can be found in the consolidated text of Directive 76/769/EEC at:

    More recent restrictions (later than 2004) can be found by clicking on the following links:

    Preparatory studies that contain risk evaluations or socio-economic analyses can be found at:

    Risk assessments on industrial chemicals are available at the website of the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB) at: