Health & Safety Glossary

Chemical Identity

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What Is Chemical Identity?

Chemical identity is the concept that each chemical or substance has a distinct property that separates it from other chemicals. This concept is one of the core foundations of modern chemistry, and is widely used by scientists to classify different substances and understand how they are different from one another. 

The term “chemical identity” also refers to the name that’s used to uniquely identify chemicals. It can be a technical name, or one that is in line with the nomenclature used by international organizations such as the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). 

The chemical identity of a substance can also be determined by a number, such as EC 200-753-7 (Benzene). Or, in some cases, the chemical composition might be used. Once the name is approved (usually after a public review of five months), the chemical identity is published in Pure and Applied Chemistry, a scientific journal. 

Scientists primarily use a variety of techniques, including experiments, chemical models, deductive and investigative reasoning to understand the chemical identities of different substances found in the environment and within our bodies. There are two main questions that chemical identity tends to answer about a substance:

  • What is the chemical composition of a substance?
  • What sets it apart from other chemicals?

 

The Importance of Chemical Identity

Without a way to differentiate between different substances, it would be impossible to classify them or understand the impact that they can have. For instance, scientists use chemical identity to determine different pollutants in the atmosphere or water. 

Chemical identity serves as the basis for chemical analysis that used to quantity, detect, and eventually understand different chemicals that are found naturally on this planet, as well as those which are synthesized. 

By reviewing and highlighting various characteristics of substances, scientists can categorize them into different classification systems. Common examples include:

  • Acids or bases
  • Ionic
  • Molecular
  • Metallic

Without analyzing the chemical identity of a substance, it would be impossible to distinguish it from others. Understanding the chemical identity of substances in the workplace is important to identify which classification system it falls in, its constituents, and their physical and chemical properties. 

More importantly, accurately identifying a substance also allows organizations to:

  • Share information with other organizations to reduce unnecessary costs associated with testing chemicals;
  • Use test data from other companies and classify different substances into groups;
  • Assess whether the chemical should be added to the Authorization List.

There are other regulatory processes where the chemical identity plays an important role. 

UK REACH Registration

Without the correct chemical identity of a substance, it would be impossible to register it since manufacturers or importers of similar chemicals must submit a joint registration application. Companies have to collect information about the properties and applications of substances and prepare a dossier that contains information about the hazards, if any. 

Submitting an Inquiry

If an organization intends to register a chemical, they must submit an inquiry with ECHA to determine whether that particular substance has been registered or not. If the chemical identity is not known, it might be difficult to connect with companies that intend to register different chemicals or those that have already registered. 

UK REACH Assessment

The UK REACH, or in some cases, the ECHA, may assess the quality of the dossier prepared for registration purposes. Organizations must show how they intend to safely use the substance, and communicate with users about any measures related to risk management that you’ve taken.

Risk Assessment Under UK REACH and COSHH

Both COSHH and UK Reach require risk assessment, so it’s important for employers to prepare safety data sheets and share them with employees. Regulation 12 of COSHH requires that employers provide information, instruction, and comprehensive training to employees. Without the chemical identity, completing these sheets is virtually impossible. 

 

The Role of Chemical Identity in Workplaces

Companies that use hazardous chemicals or substances are required by law to ensure that they take appropriate safety measures, and to ensure that they create proper protocols for the safe disposal of harmful chemicals. 

The chemical identity of a substance also aids greatly when preparing the technical specification of each active substance. HSE requires that all technical specifications must be validated using specific analysis methods and should be backed by batch data. 

Unless those in charge of safety know what chemicals they’re working with and its properties, they won’t be able to devise appropriate safety measures. The chemical identity of a substance also determines whether hazard labels should be used or not when packaging and labeling the chemicals. 

When preparing control tests for safety protocols and assessing risk in the workplace, the chemical identity is taken into account. Many chemicals in the workplace can cause serious physical and health risks, so it’s important for employees to have access to key details related to the chemicals they handle on a daily basis.

They have a right to know these details, which is why it’s important that employers provide comprehensive information about the different chemicals that the workers will be exposed to.

 

Use EcoOnline’s Chemical Safety Software to Mitigate Chemical Risks

EcoOnline’s chemical management tool sources safety data sheets directly from manufacturers and gives employers the tools they need to conduct COSHH risk assessments. This ensures compliance with local laws and the safety of employees.

Employers can provide information to employees about different materials by using QR codes, which they can scan using EcoOnline’s mobile app to quickly find relevant chemical safety information. 

From tracking chemical exposures to ensuring best practices in chemical compliance, EcoOnline’s platform ensures maximum chemical safety in the workplace.