Many chemical substances are essential in small amounts for the human body to function but larger amounts can become harmful. Even water and oxygen can be lethal to people if they are exposed to excessive amounts. While many people believe that naturally occurring substances are safer than synthetic chemicals, some naturally occurring chemicals are very poisonous.
Modern society uses tens of thousands of chemicals in everyday products. Alcohol, cosmetics, household adhesives and cleaning products, insect sprays, paints, petrol, weed killers, foods and medicines are just a few examples. Although many common products contain chemicals that can be harmful if used incorrectly, consumers generally understand and accept the risks and benefits of using these products.
Monitoring chemical safety in consumer products
The ACCC and state and territory consumer product safety regulators play an active role in:
investigating potential chemical hazards in consumer products
developing bans and mandatory standards where evidence shows a consumer product has or could cause injury, illness or death.
Regulators of specific products
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)—food, beverages and packaging.
The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA)—environmental contaminants in hazardous waste.
The Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)—agricultural and veterinary medicines and swimming and spa pool sanitisers.
The Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS) & Advisory Committee on Chemicals Scheduling (ACCS) - statutory committees under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 that advise and make recommendations to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing (or delegate) on the level of access required for medicines and chemicals.
The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)—industrial chemicals used in manufacturing, products, building and construction and for chemicals in cosmetics. NICNAS prohibits or restricts harmful use of chemicals in these products through: