Is my substance a chemical?

While chemicals exist in many forms, NICNAS defines a 'chemical' according to the meaning given in the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment Act 1989 (ICNA Act).

According to the ICNA Act, a chemical can be:

  1. a chemical element, including a chemical element contained in a mixture. Examples include:
  2. a compound or complex of a chemical element, including such a compound or complex contained in a mixture. Examples include:
    • a chemical element in a mixture, such as oxygen in a mixture of gases
    • a chemical compound in a mixture, such as the plasticiser dibutyl phthalate in a poly(vinyl chloride) blend
    • a chemical complex in a mixture, such as ferric ammonium oxalate in an aqueous solution.
  3. a chemical of unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products or biological material—otherwise known as a UVCB. Examples include:
  4. a naturally-occurring chemical, meaning an unprocessed chemical occurring in nature, or a chemical occurring in nature that has been extracted from the parent material through certain defined processes without chemical change. Examples include:
    • a naturally-occurring biological chemical
    • an inorganic chemical in soil
    • a mineral extracted from ore by a physical process such as dissolution or flotation.

What is not a chemical

The ICNA Act also sets out what is not considered a chemical:

  1. an article. This means an item which, due to its use, has been manufactured into a certain shape or design, and which does not change its chemical composition during use. Examples include:
    • steel ball bearings
    • compound plastic pipe
  2. a radioactive chemical, meaning a chemical with a specific activity greater than 35 becquerels/g.
  3. a mixture. This means a physical combination of chemicals resulting from deliberate mixing or from chemical reactions, but not a UVCB. However, the components within the mixture may be relevant industrial chemicals.

Last update 25 October 2019