NICNAS activity in 2007-08 concentrated on our business focus for the year: building a more responsive regulatory scheme. Our scientific work, our various reform activities and our international work were each directed to improving our ability to respond, both in terms of addressing risks to human health and the environment and to improve the efficiency and flexibility of the scheme.
All our work enables NICNAS to respond to its fullest capacity and within its powers when the public, workers and the environment in Australia are exposed to risks posed by industrial chemicals.
We acted in a direct way on potentially dangerous chemicals (including formaldehyde, diethylene glycol, 1,4-butanediol, and methyldibromo glutaronitrile) found in consumer items such as toothpastes, cosmetics and childrens toys.
We also provided advice on formaldehyde in accommodation units used for housing workers in the Northern Territory. Furthermore, we worked to restrict the use of certain lead compounds in industrial inks and surface coatings.
The year has also been a year of reform. There have been many advances in our implementation of the reforms recommended following the Existing Chemicals Program Review of 2006-07. These make the framework for assessing and managing existing chemicals far more flexible and responsive.
Improved processes for engaging and communicating with industry and the community were introduced, and we undertook preparatory work to improve mechanisms for identifying chemicals of concern.
We made significant progress in reviewing and implementing requirements for products containing chemicals that fall at the interface of regulatory regimes.
First, it surprises many to learn that cosmetics are classified as industrial chemicals and regulated by NICNAS. To provide clarity on the regulatory requirements for cosmetics and to align the regulatory burden with the health risk, we introduced a new cosmetics standard.
This amended the regulatory status of certain cosmetic products and improved the consistency of requirements across the cosmetic product range.
We also delivered a comprehensive education and awareness campaign to achieve strong cosmetics industry understanding and compliance with the new arrangements for cosmetics and implemented mechanisms to ensure seamless regulation across the three agencies with responsibilities in this area.
Second, we progressed consideration of hard surface disinfectants. Although the review of regulatory arrangements for these products did not progress as quickly as we expected, an independent review of the current arrangements was completed and we consulted with the public on reform options.
We are now formulating advice to Government and expect the arrangements to be finalised in 2008-09.
We also progressed our work in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our notification and assessment processes, including the strengthening of our relationships with Canada and in international harmonisation and work-sharing activities through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
NICNAS formalised its bilateral arrangement with Canada for cooperation on new chemical assessments and the Canadian system for assessing new chemicals was formally recognised.
This improves the efficiency of Australias assessment process by enabling the utilisation of previous assessments performed by Canada under certain circumstances.
We also pursued our joint work program with New Zealand and engaged in high-level dialogue with the USA.
NICNAS staff played a major role in the OECD Taskforce on Existing Chemicals by reviewing assessments for the High Production Volume Program, through its membership of the project steering group tracking the phase-out of hazardous perfluorinated chemicals and introduction of safer alternatives.
We also contributed to the work of the OECD Taskforce on New Chemicals, acting as one of the sponsoring counties under the new chemicals co-notification program and leading the work aimed at achieving harmonisation of the criteria for polymers of low concern.
NICNAS is also part of the leadership group for the OECDs Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials and has been responsible for leading the development of a database on relevant research.
In parallel and complementing these activities, we also worked to strengthen our outreach and communication activities and to improve both community access to chemical safety information and industry understanding and awareness of changes to requirements.
The NICNAS website continued to receive a significant number of visitors reflecting NICNASs ongoing communication activities. The launch of the electronic NICNAS Matters newsletter and a number of information sheets focused on key areas such as cosmetics and phthalates.
NICNAS utilised its three formal committees to consult with industry, representatives of the community from the environment, public health and worker safety sectors and Commonwealth and State and Territory government representatives.
These groups nominated members for of a number of NICNAS working parties which have been important contributors to NICNASs work in several areas.
In the first of two major external reviews, NICNAS was selected as one of the agencies to be reviewed by the Australian National Audit Office when it audited the implementation of cost recovery arrangements across government in relation to government agencies guidelines.
The Office noted that although the audited agencies incorporated sound practices in cost recovery management, there are opportunities for improvement, particularly in relation to documentation. NICNAS has taken steps to implement the reviews recommendations.
We anticipate the final report of the second external review, conducted by the Productivity Commission, into chemicals and plastics regulation. It examined the regulatory system as a whole including the roles and responsibilities of NICNAS. The fi nal report will be released early in 2008-09.
I would like to thank all the dedicated and professional staff of NICNAS who have ensured our focus on building a more responsive regulatory system has been advanced.