Banned or restricted chemicals
We are often asked which chemicals are ‘allowed’ or ‘banned’ in Australia. Many people don’t realise that chemicals are regulated on a national level by 4 different government schemes, depending on the intended use of the chemical.
Where to go for information on banned or restricted chemicals in consumer products and cosmetics
In Australia, there is no single list of banned or restricted chemicals in products. Bans and restrictions on consumer product ingredients – including cosmetics – are regulated by each state and territory authority. As a first step we recommend that you look at the Poisons Standard where you can search for chemical names. For more information and a link to the Poisons Standard, see the Therapeutic Goods Administration's website.
If you’re importing or making cosmetics, you still need to search our industrial chemicals database (Inventory) to make sure that you're meeting any regulatory obligation attached to the importation or manufacture of each chemical ingredient.
How we regulate chemicals
Our focus is on industrial chemicals and we share our recommendations to manage risks with other regulators if there is evidence that a chemical is harmful to human health and the environment. From there, it’s up to state and territory authorities to implement and enforce our recommendations through legislation, regulations and standards.
We can limit the importation and manufacture of industrial chemicals by placing obligations on the chemicals we assess, such as:
- limits on volume of chemicals imported or manufactured
- limits on concentration
- where the chemical is used
We can also add or change any obligations if further information comes to hand. It is an offence to import or manufacture a chemical if you can’t meet these obligations. To see if there are obligations for a chemical that you wish to import or manufacture, search our industrial chemicals database (Inventory).
Chemicals listed under international agreements
Australia follows international conventions and protocols to protect human health and the environment against the effects of hazardous chemicals.
If you wish to import or manufacture a chemical listed under an international agreement, you must comply with special conditions.
Under part 9 of our new law, the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019, our Executive Director has the power to approve, restrict or prohibit the introduction or export of industrial chemicals listed in:
- The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
- Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention – example, avgas or tetraethyl lead for aviation fuel
Who else regulates chemicals in Australia
There is no single list of banned chemicals in Australia. But there other schemes that play a role in regulating different parts of a chemical's life cycle:
- The Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons - also known as the Poisons Standard - is a record of decisions about the classification of medicines and chemicals used in consumer products. It may be helpful to refer to this resource when determining if you can market your product as a cosmetic.
- The Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates medicines and products marketed as having therapeutic effects, such as skin-whitening lotions, complementary medicines and blood products.
- The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority regulates agricultural and veterinary chemicals, such as pesticides, medicines for animals, insect repellents, garden sprays and pool chemicals.
- Food Standards Australia and New Zealand regulates foods and food additives for human consumption, such as colourings, vitamins and minerals.
- The Department of the Environment and Energy designs and implements policies and programs to address climate change, and protect and conserve our environment and heritage.
- Safe Work Australia develops policies on national workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation, including the safe use of chemicals in the workplace
- The National Transport Commission sets out the requirements for transporting dangerous goods, including chemicals
- Australian Border Force controls the import and export of certain goods, including toxic organic pollutants, hazardous chemicals and products such as asbestos
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission plays a role in helping protect consumers from chemical hazards in the home
- Australian National Security monitors chemicals that may be used for unlawful activities, including terrorism
State and territory authorities usually manage compliance with restrictions on the access, use and disposal of chemicals. National standards or codes of practice are reflected in state and territory legislation to provide more uniform controls across Australia.