Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Chemicals and pesticides

National chemicals management

Chemicals management in Australia involves a range of responsibilities at different levels of government. These responsibilities are undertaken within the setting of four national assessment and registration schemes relating to different types of chemicals and overseen by a number of national chemical regulators.

In mid-2007 Australian Environment Ministers also endorsed a national framework for chemicals environmental management (NChEM) to improve environmental aspects of Australia's chemical management system.

National chemical management schemes and national chemical regulators

There are four national chemical management schemes in Australia, which relate to:

  • industrial chemicals
  • agricultural chemicals (pesticides and veterinary medicines)
  • therapeutic goods (drugs and medicines)
  • food additives

The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, through its Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Office of Chemical Safety and Environmental Health (OCSEH) and Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods, chemicals and gene technology in Australia. Together the TGA, OCSEH and OGTR are known as the 'TGA group of regulators'.

The OCSEH includes the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), which regulates industrial chemicals in Australia. 

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) is the Australian Government authority responsible for evaluating and registering agricultural chemicals (pesticides and veterinary medicines) for use in Australia, within the framework of the National Registration Scheme for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals. 

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, located within the Australia Government's health and ageing portfolio, sets food standards for Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities also has a role in chemicals management in Australia. This includes undertaking environmental assessments of industrial and agricultural chemicals for NICNAS and the APVMA; liaising with the States and Territories on chemical matters; and contributing to the development of international agreements relating to hazardous substances. These agreements, for example, include the Stockholm Convention governing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (a policy framework for international action on chemical hazards) known as SAICM.

National Chemicals Environmental Management Framework (NChEM)

Detailed information about the National Chemicals Environmental Management (NChEM) Framework, which was endorsed by Environment Ministers  on 2 June 2007 is available from the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) website. 

This information includes the Ministerial Agreement on Principles for Better Environmental Management of Chemicals and a Chemicals Action Plan for the Environment. The November 2008 First Progress Report on NChEM is now available on the EPHC website.

National Chemical Information Gateway and Reference Guide

For more information about chemicals, this gateway provides anyone interested in chemicals, including pesticides, with a quick and easy way to find out more. The gateway links to Australian and international sites.

The National Chemical Reference Guide contains data on environmental standards and guidelines in Australia for over 600 chemicals, and includes environmental criteria for chemicals in the air, water, soil, sediment and biota.

More information

EPA's chemical management webpage provides more information relating to national programs for the disposal of chemicals and chemical containers and Australia's international obligations relating to hazardous chemicals such as those that arise under the Stockholm Convention governing persistent organic pollutants (POPs).


Page last updated: 10 May 2013