Data on Industrial Chemicals

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Trends in new chemical imports and manufacturing (2012/13 to 2018/19)

The charts below show trends in the manufacture and importation of new industrial chemicals in Australia.

The data relate to new industrial chemicals for which certificates were issued between 2012/13 and 2018/19. These statistics are sourced from internal NICNAS records of chemical assessments.

NICNAS collects and publishes statistics in accordance with the objects of the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the Act).

The uses assessed under Standard (STD), Limited (LTD) and Polymer of Low Concern (PLC) certificate categories are detailed in Figure 1. Each year, surface coatings are the most commonly assessed industrial application, except in 2014-15 where there was a slightly higher number of applications for cosmetic/personal use. Based on the number of assessments, industrial use categories remain relatively constant over the seven year period, except for chemicals in printing/photographic applications (refer to DOH Annual Report 2018-19).

Figure 1 – Industrial uses of chemicals assessed under Standard, Limited and Polymer of Low Concern certificate categories from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 1 – Industrial uses of chemicals assessed under Standard, Limited and Polymer of Low Concern certificate categories from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Of the assessments completed between 2012/13 and 2018/19, 42% were PLCs, 38% were LTDs and 20% were STDs. The top two industrial uses assessed under each certificate category are as follows (Figure 2):

  • STD: cosmetic/personal use, fuel and oil applications
  • LTD: cosmetic/personal use, surface coating applications
  • PLC: surface coating and printing/photographic applications.

Figure 2 – Percentage of Standard, Limited and Polymer of Low Concern certificate issued by industrial use from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 2 – Percentage of Standard, Limited and Polymer of Low Concern certificate issued by industrial use from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Of the individual chemicals assessed, only 4% were assessed for manufacturing (Figure 3)—that is, the majority of new chemicals were imported into Australia.

Figure 3 – Percentage of chemicals assessed by introduction route from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 3 – Percentage of chemicals assessed by introduction route from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Most of the individual chemicals assessed for manufacturing were for surface coating applications (69%) (Figure 4).

Figure 4 – Percentage of chemicals assessed by introduction route and industrial use from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 4 – Percentage of chemicals assessed by introduction route and industrial use from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Of the individual new chemicals assessed under the STD and LTD certificate categories, 40% were classified as hazardous according to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) (Figure 5). By definition, PLCs are non-hazardous and are not included in Figure 5.

GHS classifications are based on the data available for assessment. It should be noted that, while an individual chemical substance can be determined to be a hazardous substance, the end product may not be hazardous due to the concentration of the chemical in the final product being below the threshold for hazard classification.

Figure 5 – Hazards of chemicals assessed under Standard and Limited certificate categories from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 5 – Hazards of chemicals assessed under Standard and Limited certificate categories from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Chemicals or polymers introduced at ≤ 1 tonne per year have fewer data requirements (that is, undergo a LTD assessment) compared to the data requirements for chemicals with a higher introduction volume (that undergo a STD assessment). The ‘not determined’ hazard classification for LTD assessments is the largest category in Figure 5 above and arises when the information received is insufficient to allow the application of the GHS hazard classification criteria. In some cases, such as when the chemical is used solely for industrial applications and worker exposure can be mitigated through measures such as engineering controls and personal protective equipment, a standard risk assessment can be adequately conducted with the data received but this information maybe insufficient for GHS classification purposes.

Figures 6 and 7 show a breakdown of non-consumer and consumer industrial use of new chemicals assessed under STD and LTD categories and classified as hazardous to human health.

Figure 6 – Number of chemicals assessed for non-consumer industrial uses under Standard and Limited categories classified as hazardous to human health from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 6 – Number of chemicals assessed for non-consumer industrial uses under Standard and Limited categories classified as hazardous to human health from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 7 – Number of chemicals assessed for consumer industrial uses under Standard and Limited categories classified as hazardous to human health from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 7 – Number of chemicals assessed for consumer industrial uses under Standard and Limited categories classified as hazardous to human health from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figures 8 and 9 indicate the GHS hazard classifications for chemicals assessed under STD and LTD certificate categories for non-consumer and consumer industrial uses from 2012/13 to 2018/19. An individual chemical can have multiple hazards. For those chemicals classified as hazardous, the most common hazard classification was serious eye damage/irritation for non-consumer uses and skin sensitiser for consumer uses.

Figure 8 – Number of chemicals assessed for non-consumer industrial uses classified as hazardous by GHS hazard classification from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 8 – Number of chemicals assessed for non-consumer industrial uses classified as hazardous by GHS hazard classification from 2012/13 to 2018/19

*STOT – specific target organ toxicity (single or repeat dose)

Figure 9 – Number of chemicals assessed for consumer industrial uses classified as hazardous by GHS hazard classification from 2012/13 to 2018/19

Figure 9 – Number of chemicals assessed for consumer industrial uses classified as hazardous by GHS hazard classification from 2012/13 to 2018/19

*STOT – specific target organ toxicity (single or repeat)

Chemicals for cosmetic/personal use tend to be classified as hazardous to human health more often than any other industrial use category. However, it should be noted that, where relevant, the risks to human health from new industrial chemicals used in cosmetic/personal care products can generally be effectively managed through recommendations to scheduling under the Poisons Standard.

Definition of Other Uses

The use category 'Other' includes textile/leather processing, water treatment, refrigeration, manufacture of other chemicals, fire extinguishing/fighting, packaging, paper and pulp, electrical/electronic and uses not covered by any other category.


Existing chemicals statistics (as at 30 June 2019)

Figure 1 – Percentage of chemicals assessed on the Inventory: Breakdown of IMAP (Tranches 1–27), PEC, and NC assessments as at 30 June 2019.

Percentage of chemicals assessed on the AICS: Breakdown of IMAP (Tranches 1–27), PEC, and NC assessments as at 30 June 2019.

Key: Inventory = Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances; NC = New Chemical; PEC = Priority Existing Chemical; IMAP = Inventory Multi-Tiered Assessment and Prioritisation.

The total number of unique chemicals assessed to date under the IMAP framework is 14,162 as at 30 June 2019 (for further informaiton, please refer to Department of Health Annual Report 2018-19). As part of IMAP assessments, recommendations are made to risk management agencies (refer to chart below) are shown in Chart below. These agencies include SafeWork Australia (who maintain the Hazardous Chemical Information System— HCIS), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Scheduling Delegate (for listing chemicals in the Poisons Standard—the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP)), and the Department of the Environment and Energy. Some chemicals are referred internally for a Tier III assessment. A total of 4,037 risk management recommendations have been made for 3,250 unique chemicals assessed at Tier II and III since the introduction of the IMAP framework in 2012.

Figure 2 – Total recommendations made for Tier II and III chemical assessments through Stages One & Two, Years 1–7 (Tranches 1–27) as at 30 June 2019.

Total recommendations made for Tier II and III chemical assessments through Stages One & Two, Years 1–7 (Tranches 1–27) as at 30 June 2019.


Historical data

You can see the past existing chemicals statistics and trends in new chemical imports and manufacturing in the National Library of Australia Archive.

Historical data

Last update 19 November 2019