What Is A Chemical?

A substance is defined as a chemical (and may require notification) if it falls under any of the following definitions:

  • Discrete chemical elements, compounds and complexes of particular molecular identity, either as a pure or technical grade substance, for example:

    • Chemical element: lead (CAS no. 7439-92-1);

    • Chemical compound: succinic acid (CAS no. 110-15-6), polyvinyl chloride (CAS no. 9002-86-2); and

    • Chemical complex: ferric ammonium oxalate (CAS no. 14221-47-7).

    Note: the chemical name and CAS number are the identifying characteristics of the chemical.

  • Chemical elements, compounds and complexes which exist as components in a physical mixture of chemicals, either by chemical reaction or deliberate mixing of the chemicals (the mixture itself is not notifiable), for example:

    • Chemical element in a mixture: oxygen (CAS no. 7782-44-7) in a mixture of gases;

    • Chemical compound in a mixture: the plasticiser dibutyl phthalate (CAS no. 84-74-2) in a poly(vinyl chloride) blend; and

    • Chemical complex in a mixture: an aqueous solution of ferric ammonium oxalate (CAS no. 14221-47-7).

  • Chemicals of unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products or biological other than a whole plant or animal (UVCB substances). These are poorly defined substances that cannot be represented by a complete chemical structure and specific molecular formula, for example:

  • Unknown or variable composition: chlorinated paraffin sodium sulfonate (CAS no. 68910-45-2), where the degree of chlorination varies;

  • Complex product of a chemical reaction: tall oil, reaction products with diethanolamine (CAS no. 97489-16-2) where the product of a chemical reaction is in a mixture with its reactants; and

  • Biological material: geranium oil (CAS no. 8000-46-2)

  • Naturally-occurring chemicals, meaning unprocessed chemicals occurring in nature, or chemicals occurring in nature which have been extracted from the parent material through certain defined processes without chemical change, for example:

    • Naturally-occurring biological chemicals;

    • Inorganic chemicals in the soil; and

    • Minerals extracted from ore by a physical process such as dissolution or flotation.

A substance is NOT defined as a chemical (and does not require notification) if it fits any one of the following descriptions:

  • Articles, being items which, due to their use, have been manufactured into a certain shape or design, and which do not change their chemical composition during use. For example, steel ball bearings, compounded plastic pipe or adhesive films would be considered to be articles. For the purposes of NICNAS, articles do not include fluids or substances that may be manufactured or imported in particulate or aggregate form, for example, a polymer in granular from which will be further processed.

  • Radioactive chemicals – chemicals having a specific activity greater than 35 becquerels/g.

  • Mixtures, being physical combinations of chemicals resulting from deliberate mixing or from chemical reactions, but not being UVCB substances. Although a mixture itself is not notifiable, new industrial chemical components in the mixture are notifiable unless exempt.

What to do now?

If the substance is not a chemical under the NICNAS definition, then it is not regulated under this scheme. The substance however may be regulated by other Australian Government authorities.

If the substance is determined to be a chemical, then proceed to 'Is the substance an industrial chemical?' or 'Does my chemical require notification?'