IMAP Review 2016

The IMAP framework was reviewed to see if it had achieved its original purpose and to identify any areas for improvement.

You can now read the results of the review in the Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and Prioritisation (IMAP) Framework Review [WORD 987 KB].

This publication:

  • summarises the review, including key data analysis
  • contains feedback from stakeholders, and
  • highlights opportunities for applying the results to NICNAS initiated assessments proposed by the NICNAS Reforms.

Frequently asked questions

Click or tap on the question to see the answer.

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Why was IMAP established?

The IMAP framework was established in 2012 to accelerate the assessment of unassessed chemicals listed on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS)—known as 'existing chemicals'—for the risks they pose to the Australian public and environment.

The IMAP framework was developed following extensive reviews, planning and consultation. Approximately 3000 industrial chemicals were prioritised for assessment during the four-year Stage One period.

Why do a review of IMAP?

The Australian Government decided that IMAP should be reviewed during its fourth year of operation. This review was completed in April 2016. It identified a number of opportunities to improve the prioritisation and assessment process for industrial chemicals listed on the AICS.

These improved processes should contribute to a more robust and efficient framework that can be applied to the large number of unassessed chemicals (approximately 34,000) remaining on the AICS.

Did the IMAP framework successfully meet its objectives?

The IMAP framework met its main objective, which was to identify and rapidly assess the risks posed to the Australian public and the environment through exposure to ‘existing chemicals’. The framework:

  • enhanced chemical safety information and improvements to regulatory controls
  • was a flexible and transparent way of efficiently and effectively assessing large numbers of chemicals on the AICS
  • was responsive to the needs of industry, community and Government.

As at 30 June 2016, NICNAS assessed 3419 unique industrial chemicals under IMAP, which surpassed the target of 2850 or 95 % of the Stage One chemicals set at the start of the program.

This total included 515 chemicals that were not on the Stage One list but were able to be included due to their close similarity to chemicals already being assessed.

What was the impact of IMAP assessments on industrial chemicals regulation in Australia?

he IMAP framework was successful in supporting risk management of chemicals in Australia with risk management measures implemented or being considered for a significant number of chemicals as a result of the recommendations made. As at 30 June 2016, 2705 recommendations had been made for 2135 unique chemicals through IMAP.

Most of the recommendations (a total of 1673 chemicals) have been made to Safe Work Australia for changes to hazard classification through amendment of the Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS). A further 362 chemicals have been recommended for scheduling under the Poisons Standard due to identified public health risks. Recommendations have also been made to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for 161 chemicals in relation to their presence in consumer goods.

The main focus of IMAP environmental assessments (conducted by staff of the Department of the Environment) was to provide the information necessary to inform current and/or future frameworks and standards for efficient and effective environmental risk management. Information in these assessments will be relevant to the National Standard for Environmental Risk Management of Industrial Chemicals. This is being developed by the Department of the Environment to enable a nationally consistent approach to managing the risks that industrial chemicals may pose to the environment.

How was IMAP aligned with international best practice?

Key features of the IMAP framework that were aligned with international best practice included:

  • screening chemicals against risk-based criteria
  • proportionate risk-based assessment approach, using a tiered risk-based model to align assessment effort with the likely human health and environmental impacts of a chemical
  • co-operative stakeholder partnerships for the regulation of chemicals
  • integration of exposure information at an initial stage
  • using appropriate, internationally-accepted methods for human health and environmental assessment
  • early use of problem formulation and consideration of risk mitigation options to inform the targeting of resources and methodologies required for assessment
  • publication of information on chemicals of low concern.
What lessons were learned regarding the use of international data?

International data were used extensively in IMAP, with 99 % of IMAP Tier II chemical assessments citing at least one international data source. The review found that using a combination of international sources was most effective for achieving satisfactory risk assessments.

Given the significant diversity in scope of the international data sources used, substantial effort was required to extract and evaluate the relevance of the information for the Australian context.

Feedback from risk management agencies emphasised the important role NICNAS plays in evaluating international data. NICNAS will continue to actively collaborate with its international counterparts to optimise the continued use of international data.

Were the tools and approaches used to fill gaps in hazard and exposure data successful?


Although international data and early communication with key stakeholders to obtain information were used extensively in IMAP assessments, only ≈10 % of Tier II assessments had data available for all standard toxicity endpoints. Internationally accepted approaches, such as grouping of chemicals or read-across between chemicals based on similar characteristics (e.g. physico-chemical properties) and the application of QSAR tools (e.g. use of computer programs to predict toxicity based on the chemical’s structure), were routinely employed, where relevant, where laboratory data were unavailable. Assessment conclusions were also achievable in the absence of specific data for a chemical by consideration of existing or proposed risk management measures for similar chemicals.


The use of surrogate and default exposure data in undertaking risk assessment, in the absence of data on the use of a chemical in Australia, was effective and is likely to be continued. An audit of surrogate data sources and new strategies to refine the default volumes used to assess chemicals on the AICS were recommended to reduce the potential for overestimation of the release to the environment and subsequently appraised risk of the chemicals.

Were the tools and approaches used to prioritise chemicals effective?

The tools and approaches developed for the IMAP framework to prioritise chemicals for assessment and to produce targeted assessment outputs were considered to be aligned with international best practice and were effective.

Opportunities to further enhance and refine these tools and approaches have been identified and will be a major focus in the next stage of IMAP.

Does NICNAS intend to assess the remaining chemicals on the Stage One list?

The remaining 3.2 % of the 3000 chemicals on the Stage One list were not assessed, typically because there were insufficient data; the chemical was in limited use; or the chemical was unable to be assessed in groups of other Stage One chemicals.

Some of these remaining chemicals will be assessed over the next two years as new data become available to NICNAS (for example, with more information becoming available as a result of the European Chemicals Agency REACH 2018 registration deadline for low-volume chemicals).

Does NICNAS plan to continue to assess the remaining chemicals on the AICS?

Yes. NICNAS will continue to assess or reassess chemicals including those that were “grandparented” onto the AICS decades ago without prior assessment. The continued application of the IMAP framework over the next two years, while transitioning to the proposed assessment arrangements as part of reforms to NICNAS, has been approved by the Australian Government.

The remaining chemicals on the AICS will be prioritised (or deprioritised) for assessment in consultation with stakeholders. There has been support from key stakeholders for the continued efficient assessment of the remaining chemicals on the AICS. There is, however, a need to balance the pace of the assessment output with the ability for stakeholders to manage these outputs.

How will stakeholders be involved in the future?

NICNAS’s key stakeholders include industry (including workers), community groups, local and international regulatory bodies, and risk managers.

These stakeholders played a pivotal role in the planning and implementation of the IMAP framework and will continue to be important in the development of the future framework for the assessment of existing chemicals in Australia. Stakeholders will be engaged frequently and transparently in a variety of ways including meetings and teleconferences.

Last update 29 July 2018