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Risk Phrases (R-phrases)

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Definition

Prior to May 31, 2015, the European Union (EU) required that risk phrases (R-phrases) appear on each label and Safety Data Sheet for hazardous chemicals. R-phrases consisted of the letter R followed by a number. The precise meaning of each of these appears in the table below. These are now obsolete (see Additional Info ).

Safety phrases (S-phrases) for handling precautions were also part of the same requirements and are also obsolete.

Additional Info

R-phrases were used to specify the particular danger(s) of the material whereas the other label elements such as symbols or pictograms (see CHIP) only indicated broad classes of hazards. For example, sodium metal would have had a large F and flame icon on the label, but the particular risk was denoted by R14/15 and R34 which correspond to "Reacts violently with water liberating highly flammable gases" and "causes burns".

While an improvement over simple pictograms, R- and S- phrases were still not specific enough, so they were phased out in favor of the much more comprehensive Hazard Statements and Precautionary Statements under the EU's implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) per EU Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 (6.6 MB PDF file).

More than one R-phrase could appear on a SDS. They were typically presented in combination, such as R36/37/38. In the first table below, single phrases are given, and in the second table, combinations are given. In general, no more than four R-phrases were sufficient to adequately communicate the risks of a particular material. The selected R-phrases were those applicable to the substance(s) present in the concentration which gave rise to the most severe classification (for example, T+ versus T).

Conversions from R-statements to H-statements can be found starting on page 1352 of EU Regulation (EC) 1272/2008.

Single Risk Phrases
R1 Explosive when dry.
R2 Risk of explosion by shock, friction, fire or other sources of ignition.
R3 Extreme risk of explosion by shock, friction, fire or other sources of ignition.
R4 Forms very sensitive explosive metallic compounds.
R5 Heating may cause an explosion.
R6 Explosive with or without contact with air.
R7 May cause fire.
R8 Contact with combustible material may cause fire.
R9 Explosive when mixed with combustible material.
R10 Flammable.
R11 Highly flammable.
R12 Extremely flammable.
R13 Extremely flammable liquified gas. (Deprecated).
R14 Reacts violently with water.
R15 Contact with water liberates highly flammable gases.
R16 Explosive when mixed with oxidizing substances.
R17 Spontaneously flammable in air.
R18 In use, may form flammable/explosive vapour-air mixture.
R19 May form explosive peroxides.
R20 Harmful by inhalation.
R21 Harmful in contact with skin.
R22 Harmful if swallowed.
R23 Toxic by inhalation.
R24 Toxic in contact with skin.
R25 Toxic if swallowed.
R26 Very toxic by inhalation.
R27 Very toxic in contact with skin.
R28 Very toxic if swallowed.
R29 Contact with water liberates toxic gases.
R30 Can become highly flammable in use.
R31 Contact with acids liberates toxic gas.
R32 Contact with acids liberates Very toxic gas.
R33 Danger of cumulative effects.
R34 Causes burns.
R35 Causes severe burns.
R36 Irritating to eyes.
R37 Irritating to respiratory system.
R38 Irritating to skin.
R39 Danger of very serious irreversible effects.
R40 Possible risks of irreversible effects.
R41 Risk of serious damage to eyes.
R42 May cause sensitization by inhalation.
R43 May cause sensitization by skin contact.
R44 Risk of explosion if heated under confinement.
R45 May cause cancer.
R46 May cause heritable genetic damage.
R47 May cause birth defects.
R48 Danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure.
R49 May cause cancer by inhalation.
R50 Very toxic to aquatic organisms.
R51 Toxic to aquatic organisms.
R52 Harmful to aquatic organisms.
R53 May cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
R54 Toxic to flora.
R55 Toxic to fauna.
R56 Toxic to soil organisms.
R57 Toxic to bees.
R58 May cause long-term adverse effects in the environment.
R59 Dangerous for the ozone layer.
R60 May impair fertility.
R61 May cause harm to the unborn child.
R62 Possible risk of impaired fertility.
R63 Possible risk of harm to the unborn child.
R64 May cause harm to breastfed babies.

Multiple Risk Phrases
R14/15 Reacts violently with water liberating highly flammable gases.
R15/29 Contact with water liberates toxic, highly flammable gas.
R20/21 Harmful by inhalation and in contact with skin.
R20/22 Harmful by inhalation and if swallowed.
R20/21/22 Harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R21/22 Harmful in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R23/24 Toxic by inhalation and in contact with skin.
R23/25 Toxic by inhalation and if swallowed.
R23/24/25 Toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R24/25 Toxic in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R26/27 Very toxic by inhalation and in contact with skin.
R26/28 Very toxic by inhalation and if swallowed.
R26/27/28 Very toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R27/28 Very toxic in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R36/37 Irritating to eyes and respiratory system.
R36/38 Irritating to eyes and skin.
R36/37/38 Irritating to eyes, respiratory system and skin.
R37/38 Irritating to respiratory system and skin.
R39/23 Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation.
R39/24 Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects in contact with skin.
R39/25 Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects if swallowed.
R39/23/24 Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation and in contact with skin.
R39/23/25 Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation and if swallowed.
R39/24/25 Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R39/23/24/25 Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R39/26 Very toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation.
R39/27 Very toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects in contact with skin.
R39/28 Very toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects if swallowed.
R39/26/27 Very toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation and in contact with skin.
R39/26/28 Very toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation and if swallowed.
R39/27/28 Very toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R39/26/27/28 Very toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R40/20 Harmful: possible risk of irreversible effects through inhalation.
R40/21 Harmful: possible risk of irreversible effects in contact with skin.
R40/22 Harmful: possible risk of irreversible effects if swallowed.
R40/20/21 Harmful: possible risk of irreversible effects through inhalation and in contact with skin.
R40/20/22 Harmful: possible risk of irreversible effects through inhalation and if swallowed.
R40/21/22 Harmful: possible risk of irreversible effects in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R40/20/21/22 Harmful: possible risk of irreversible effects through inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R42/43 May cause sensitization by inhalation and skin contact.
R48/20 Harmful: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation.
R48/21 Harmful: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure in contact with skin.
R48/22 Harmful: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure if swallowed.
R48/20/21 Harmful: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation and in contact with skin.
R48/20/22 Harmful: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation and if swallowed.
R48/21/22 Harmful: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R48/20/21/22 Harmful: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R48/23 Toxic: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation.
R48/24 Toxic: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure in contact with skin.
R48/25 Toxic: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure if swallowed.
R48/23/24 Toxic: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation and in contact with skin.
R48/23/25 Toxic: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation and if swallowed.
R48/24/25 Toxic: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R48/23/24/25 Toxic: danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure through inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R50/53 Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
R51/53 Toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
R52/53 Harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.

SDS Relevance

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Risk phrases were never required on labels or Safety Data Sheet by U.S. OSHA, however, they were required in the European Community. As risk phrases were formally phased out in 2015, they are generally only seen on older (and obsolete) SDS's. If your current sheet has R- and S-phrases instead of H-statements you should contact the manufacturer to get an updated sheet.

Remember that risk phrases only indicated the risk of a material, not the safety precautions that users needed to follow. For safety information see the safety phrases entry.

Further Reading

See also: ANSI, CHIP, EINECS, Hazard Statements, safety phrases and the International Section of the SDS FAQ.

Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.



Entry last updated: Thursday, October 1, 2020. This page is copyright 2000-2021 by ILPI. Unauthorized duplication or posting on other web sites is expressly prohibited. Send suggestions, comments, and new entry desires (include the URL if applicable) to us by email.

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