Many of Australia’s sensitive habitats, species and ecosystems are susceptible to industrial chemical pollution.
Industrial chemicals are found in products such as inks, paints, adhesives, solvents, cosmetics and cleaning products.
One of our key responsibilities is to protect the environment from the harmful effects of chemicals.
We do this by undertaking environmental risk assessments (ERAs) to determine the environmental impact of industrial chemicals when they are used as intended.
ERAs estimate the level of risk a chemical can have on our environment at each stage of its life cycle.
We assess the impact of these chemicals on specific parts of the environment including rivers, the ocean, the atmosphere, animals and plants.
We approach each chemical as a potential hazard to the environment.
The environmental hazard of a chemical is the result of several factors including:
- its toxicity
- its potential to accumulate in animals and plants
- how long it lasts in the environment
- the way it moves to different parts of the environment
We calculate risk based on the likelihood that harm will occur due to the presence of the hazard, or chemical.
Our ERAs identify each chemical by its properties, how it will be used by industry or the community and in what quantities.
ERAs calculate how a chemical will respond if it enters Australia’s unique environment and help us determine how chemicals can enter and harm our environment.
We estimate risk by:
- identifying the potential hazard of a chemical
- predicting the harmful effects a chemical can have on the environment
- identifying how our environment will respond when it’s exposed to industrial chemicals.
Risks are a combination of exposure and effects. Adapted from SETAC, 1997
ERAs help industry, regulators and the community make sound environmental management decisions.
This is to minimise risks to Australia’s land, air, waterways and its people.
These assessments help us make informed decisions that:
- identify the greatest risks to the Australian environment
- highlight the consequences of potential management decisions
- identify knowledge gaps to help us plan ahead
Risk assessors deliver ERAs based on published studies and international risk assessments to:
- determine threats to the environment
- screen new chemicals before their introduction to Australia through import or manufacture
IChEMS and risk assessment
A national chemical reform is underway with the Industrial Chemicals Environmental Management Standard, or IChEMS.
IChEMS is a national approach to improve the way environmental risks from chemicals are managed across Australia. It delivers more streamlined and nationally consistent regulations for stronger environmental protection.
Together, IChEMS and our ERAs will help guide industry towards more efficient decision-making on use, storage and disposal of chemicals. IChEMS will also offer risk management measures that reduce potential harm to the environment.
Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme
The Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS) regulates the manufacture and importation of industrial chemicals into Australia.
We undertake environmental risk assessments on behalf of AICIS and make risk management recommendations to manage identified risks to the environment.
Responsibility for implementing environmental risk management measures and monitoring compliance with these measures sits with Commonwealth, state and territory regulators.
- Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme
- Industrial Chemicals Act 2019
- Manuals for Environmental Risk Assessors
For more information on chemicals assessment, contact us at CasAdmin@environment.gov.au