What is a naturally-occurring chemical?

A naturally-occurring chemical is one of the following:

  1. an unprocessed chemical occurring in a natural environment — chemicals obtained from plants, microorganisms, the earth, sea or animals without any processing at all, for example blood and milk from animals, minerals, ores, crude oil, coal and natural gas obtained without any processing
  2. a chemical occurring in a natural environment that is extracted using a process that does not cause a chemical change in the substance — this refers to chemicals that occur in nature but which have been extracted using certain processes without changing their chemical composition. If introducers and suppliers extract a chemical by some other means, such as steam distillation or solvent extraction, it will not be a naturally-occurring chemical

This definition of a naturally-occurring chemical is in section 5 of the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (ICNA Act).

Naturally-occurring chemicals- go to our example page (includes essential oils, chemicals used in construction, mineral ores, argan oil and beeswax)

Chemicals that are marketed as 'organic', 'natural' or from 'natural sources'

Many products with ingredients (chemicals) derived from natural sources such as plants and minerals that are marketed or labelled as 'natural', 'organic' or 'pure' do NOT meet the legal definition of a naturally-occurring chemical. This is usually because of the process used to extract the chemical from its source.

If a chemical in your product does not meet the naturally-occurring chemical definition, it is a relevant industrial chemical. You need to register with us if you want to manufacture and/or import the industrial chemical or a product containing the industrial chemical, for commercial purposes. You also must check that each ingredient in your product is on the Inventory.

You do not need to notify us if your chemical is a naturally-occurring chemical. This is because these chemicals are treated like they are on the Inventory, whether they are listed or not.

Do the ingredients in my product meet the naturally-occurring chemical definition?

Introducers and suppliers can obtain some chemicals from nature without any processing, such as minerals and animal milk. These ingredients meet the definition of a 'naturally-occurring chemical'.

But most chemicals derived from nature need to be processed before introducers and suppliers can use them in a product. So you need to consider the process involved in deriving or extracting it and whether there has been a chemical composition change during the extraction.

Factors to consider when working out if your chemical is naturally-occurring

  • how was the substance obtained
  • has the substance been obtained after some form of processing
  • if so, what type of processing
  • was heat used in the processing
  • was there any likelihood of chemical change during processing

Extraction processes that do not cause a chemical change

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  • Manual, mechanical or gravitational
    • Filtration: solid and liquid phases of a mixture are mechanically separated by passing it through a porous medium
    • Centrifugation: liquid phases or solid and liquid phases of a mixture are separated by mechanical/gravitational means
    • Sedimentation: solid and liquid phases of a mixture are gravitationally separated by enabling the settling of solids in liquids
    • Cold pressing: liquid of a liquid-solid mixture is separated by squeezing it to obtain the liquid
    • Sieving: solids in a mixture can be separated on the basis of particle size
  • Extraction by dissolution in water (for water-soluble chemicals)

    Water is the only solvent an introducer or supplier can use to extract the chemical from other components in a mixture.

    Examples include:

    • extraction of sugar from sugar beets using water
    • leaching of soluble tea from tea leaves
    • extracting a water-soluble chemical from mineral ore

    Dissolution by any other solvent or mixture of solvents (or mixture of water with other solvents) disqualifies the chemical from being naturally-occurring.

  • Flotation
    • Flotation is a separation process used in mineral processing to separate minerals from waste rock or solids.
    • Mineral ore is pulverised and mixed with water and chemicals that cause preferential wetting of the solid particles.
      • Air bubbles carry the unwetted particles to the surface to obtain a mineral concentrate. For example lead, zinc, and copper concentrates.
  • Heating for the sole purpose of removing uncombined water
    • Introducers or suppliers can use heat to purify or concentrate chemical compounds by removing uncombined water, for example the drying of a wet clay or mineral, where moisture is not chemically bound to the substrate.
    • Using heat for any other purpose, such as steam distillation, disqualifies the chemical from being naturally-occurring.

Last update 14 November 2018