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.
Which chemicals are banned in consumer products and cosmetics?
The Poisons Standard is the best resource for people who are looking for information on restricted or banned chemicals in consumer products - including cosmetics. This is a legal document, but you can search it for chemical names.
If you’re importing or making cosmetics, you still need to check our Inventory to make sure there are no regulatory obligations attached to the product’s chemical ingredients.
How we regulate chemicals
Our focus is on industrial chemicals, but we will 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 don’t publish lists of illegal or restricted chemicals, and we’re unable to ban the use of chemicals. However, we can limit industrial chemical imports and manufacturing by placing obligations on the chemicals we assess, such as:
- Limits on volume
- Limits on concentration
- Where the chemical is used
If we place any obligations on a chemical, they will be described in the chemical’s Inventory listing. 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.
Chemicals listed under international agreements
Australia follows international conventions and protocols to protect human health and the environment against the effects of hazardous chemicals.
Under section 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
If you wish to import or manufacture a chemical listed under an international agreement, you must apply in writing and pay an application fee.
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 repellants, 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.