AICS Detailed Help / Guidance Notes
AICS online is the list of chemicals on the non-confidential section of the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS) that can be searched via the Internet. This list is updated every fortnight.
To search AICS online requires either a correct chemical name, or a CAS number or a molecular formulae as defined below:
If you only have a common name, for example, a
generic name listed on the label of a cosmetic product, most likely you
will not find the chemical on the AICS even if it is listed there.
Some examples of how
to do this are provided on the
AICS Searching for Beginners
There are several Internet sites that are helpful identifying CAS numbers or chemical names:
Search strategies for specific group of chemicals is provided for the following groups of chemicals:
The CAS Number is a unique number assigned to a substance when it is entered into the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) REGISTRY database. More information on CAS is available at
Because each CAS number is a unique identifying number, in contrast to chemical or associated names for which there may be multiple names in use for a chemical, searching the AICS using CAS number is the easiest and least ambiguous method of identifying whether chemicals are listed or not.
The format of CAS number is three blocks of numbers separated by dashes ie. XXX-XX-X. The first block can be between 2 and 6 digits. The second block has only 2 digits and the last block is always a single digit. Any preceding zeros in the first block need to be discarded. For example, the CAS number for formaldehyde is
If the entered CAS number matches a CAS number listed on AICS
exactly, details of the chemical will be displayed on the screen. The result of a search using a CAS number is limited to only a single chemical. If CAS number entered is not the correct format (eg. too few or many numbers), an alert message will be displayed. The CAS number search field will
not accept "wild card" searches.
As an example, to search for formaldehyde, the CAS number (50-00-0 or 50000) can be entered into the search field and the search commenced by hiting Go. If no dashes are included, the system will add them to the last three digits. Below are screenshots of before and after searching for '50000'.
To print the results of the chemical search, click on the printable version. This will open the search result in a window suitable for printing (below).
If there are no hits for the CAS number then a negative search screen will appear stating "No results found".
Chemicals are listed under 'Chemical Name' with their CAS approved name. Chemicals are more commonly known by names other than their CAS approved name. Only some of these associated names or synonyms are also included on AICS. Both these names can be searched by using the "Chemical Name Search" method.
In the example above, formaldehyde has six listed associated names on AICS. However, it has several more associated names, such as "Formal" which are not listed on AICS. Therefore, if "Formal" is entered for the search, a negative result will occur even though formaldehyde is listed.
The search engine for chemical name search has been set up to search for name fragments. A fragment is defined as a word, with a 'space' or 'bracket' or '-' or 'number' separating the next word.
Please note that the chemical names are in different formats on AICS (eg. extra space, bracket or sequence) and a negative result may occur if the correct format is not used. Given below are two examples for simple chemicals with different name formats:
If you do not have the CAS number or correct chemical name, you should ensure that you have sufficient associated names to enable a comprehensive AICS search. Associated chemical names or synonyms can be obtained through Internet sources or other published documents.
AICS does not list trade names or International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) names and so searching cannot be conducted for these names.
Chemical names and molecular formula searches can be enhanced by the use of the wildcard"*". This can be used in different search options.
Search results are limited to 200 hits for any search. If there are more than 200 hits, the search engine returns a request to refine the search. Chemical name searches can be refined using the operator phrases available as drop down menus.
There are several options for Chemical Name Search:
Operator phrases for Chemical Name Search:
(a) Contains all words: The search will be conducted on all words entered on the line. The sequence or any preceding characters (including wildcards) are ignored. Wildcard option, "*", can be used at the end of words for search. This is the best option if a chemical name is long and has many components (eg polymers). For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is entered on the search field, the search engine will break the name into two fragments, 'pentanoic' and 'acid' and search for chemical names on AICS which contain both the fragments. There are about 82 records on AICS which contain the fragments.
(b) Contains any words: This will search for any word entered on the line. This option has to be used in combination with other options as it may lead to large number of hits. For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is searched using this option, too many hits occur. This is because the search engine is trying to find if either of the fragments 'pentanoic' or 'acid' are listed in the chemical names on AICS.
(c)   Contains phrase: This will search for any phrase entered. The sequence of phrase items is maintained during the search. This option needs to be used with caution as it may result in negative result if the sequence on AICS does not match the search phrase.
For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is searched using contains phrase option, 82 records are returned, however, if the sequence is reversed and 'acid pentanoic' is searched for no results are returned.
For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is searched, all chemicals where pentanoic acid is the first part of the name are displayed.
(e) Equals: This search matches the exact chemical name. In this option, spaces, brackets, commas, dashes are important and unless these are entered correctly the chemical will not be matched. Wildcard cannot be used with this option. It is useful when searching for individual chemical names (eg benzene, water etc).
(f) Excludes phrase: This option will exclude any phrase/word entered. It should be noted that sequence is important in any phrase option. If you want to exclude only individual words, use this option on separate lines. This is useful to narrow down search results.
For example, to narrow down the search results for 'pentanoic acid' from 82 (using 'contains all words') option to manageable numbers, excludes phrase may be used. First identify the words/phrases in the list which you do not want in your results by scrolling down. Once these are identified, type the words on different search lines and use the option 'excludes phrase'.
Results when exclude terms are on the same line:
Results when exclude terms are on different search lines:
Any combination of the above operator phrases can be used to do the search.
Molecular formula information on AICS is limited to only a few chemicals. We recommend you use this option to assist only in narrowing chemical name searches.
The search operators phrases are:
Contains: This will search for phrase entered on the line. The sequence of phrase is maintained during the search. This option needs to be used with caution as it may result in negative result if the sequence on AICS does not match the search phrase. Wildcard, "*", can be used in the search if the sequence is not known.
Starts with: This will search for molecular formula starting with the phrase entered. Wildcard, "*", is useful to get more hits and can be used in the start or end of phrase.
Equals: This search matches the exact molecular formula. This option is useful when molecular formula is known. Wildcard is not useful in this option.
Excludes phrase: This option will exclude any phrase/word entered.
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