Assessments include screening assessments, Priority Existing Chemicals (PEC) assessments (full, preliminary, and secondary), other assessments and international assessments. PEC assessments comprise assessment modules, with the modular make-up of each varying depending on the scope of the assessment. The modules are: hazard assessment, exposure assessment, risk assessment/current controls, environment assessment, public health assessment, and recommendations/final draft report.
Chemicals to be considered for full or preliminary assessment are assessed by an expert agency panel against a set of criteria covering issues in public health, occupational health and safety and the environment. The data used for the screening comprise health and environmental hazard data plus exposure data submitted by industry in response to notice in the Chemical Gazette. Screening allows the chemicals to be included on the Candidate List on the basis of the perceived severity of the threat posed to human health or the environment. Results of screening assessments are made public.
This class of assessment provides for the fast collection and distribution of data on one or more aspects of a chemical that may be of concern, but which has not been declared a PEC. They serve the situation where there is an identified need for data on a chemical, but not necessarily for an evaluation of the data. Related or similar chemicals may be considered as a group. The draft reports are circulated for comment to interested parties before publication.
Full assessments usually include information on chemical and physical properties, uses, exposure, kinetics and metabolism, effects on experimental animals and in vitro test systems, and human health effects. They include a hazard assessment and classification, a section on risk characterisation, risk management, and recommendations for safe use. Full assessments include an occupational, consumer and/or environmental risk assessment. Sometimes related or similar chemicals are assessed as a group, and the assessment can focus on specific areas of concern. This flexibility in assessment ensures that NICNAS resources are targeted effectively to priority areas of concern.
Preliminary assessments are less detailed, tailored to the particular aspects that are the focus of the assessment. Preliminary assessments do not include a risk assessment. As with full assessments, preliminary assessments can apply to the chemical generally, or can concentrate on particular uses of the chemical, or on its manufacture, handling, storage or uses in a specified geographical area or in specified circumstances.
Following the publication of a PEC assessment there may be changes in circumstances that require a reassessment of particular aspects of the chemical. The secondary notification and assessment process is implemented when a new use of the chemical occurs or when significant new information about the health or environmental effects or circumstances of use of the chemical become available.
Secondary assessments may also be required for new chemicals that have been assessed by NICNAS. They are subsequently listed on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances and are then considered to be existing chemicals.
There are two international assessment programs for existing chemicals under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Program on Chemical Safety (IPCS).
These programs coordinate international agreements on one assessment of a chemical, based on a draft assessment contributed by one of the participating countries. This avoids duplication by the other participating countries. The outcomes of international assessments are routinely considered by NICNAS.
The OECD’s Screening Information Data Sets program concentrates on the potential hazards of high production volume chemicals (HPV), or chemicals being produced in quantities of at least 1,000 tonnes per year in at least one OECD member country.
In order to share the burden of testing and assessing these chemicals, member countries work together to cooperatively investigate HPV chemicals.
Hazard assessment reports prepared by a country are available to all other member countries. The assessments are considered and member countries agree on conclusions about the hazards of the chemical and recommendations concerning the need for follow-up actions. The chemical industry plays a significant voluntary role in this program.
The IPCS is a cooperative program of the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Environment Program and the International Labour Organization.
It publishes Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents that are summaries of relevant scientific information based on selected national or regional evaluation documents.