Chemicals - Useful websites

There are hundreds of websites providing information and advice on chemicals.  Here are a few:

Australian websites

  • The Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS) provides information on chemicals that have been classified in accordance with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The database, launched in July 2016, features classification and labelling information for over 4,500 chemicals, including pictograms as well as a searchable database of workplace exposure standards. 
    HCIS replaced the previous Hazardous Substance Information System (HSIS) and will make it easier for manufacturers, importers, suppliers and end-users of chemicals to meet the requirements of the GHS, which became mandatory under the model work health and safety laws on 1 January 2017.
  • AICIS - the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme is an Australian statutory scheme under which industrial chemicals are sometime assessed, sometimes notified to or sometimes not told at all. This was previously NICNAS but many changes were made to the scheme and now it concentrates on only those chemicals which are deemed to be potential problems in terms of health and environmental effects. Assessments of more than 1,000 chemicals can be accessed free on the NICNAS site.  The Australian Inventory of  Industrial Chemicals (the Inventory), the legal device that distinguishes new from existing chemicals, can now be searched on the NICNAS website.  The database provides information on the chemical, including any conditions of use and other information of interest to the community and industry. Also available is some information on chemicals, such as banned or restricted chemicals, polymers and so on. 
  • AVPMA - the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority: The national independent regulator of pesticides and veterinary medicines.
  • All the OHS regulators have information on hazardous substances/chemicals.  Check your state's regulator's website.
    • WorkSafe: Hazardous substances Topic information page
    • Work Safe WA - a 12 minute film on Hazardous substances which demonstrates how to identify hazardous substances, assess the risk of injury or harm and control the risk.
  • National Toxics Network Australia -  NTN is a community based network working for pollution reduction, protection of environmental health and environmental justice for all. It supports community and environmental organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.  NTN provides non-government organisations (NGOs) with a national and international voice on chemical and toxics issues and functions as Australia's "toxic watch dog."

International websites

    • Work Cancer Hazards - a continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research produced by Hazards magazine, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
    • A bit of fun - but very informative, a Napo film: Napo in danger: Chemicals! This is suitable for all workers.
    • REACH is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use (EC 1907/2006). It deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances. The law entered into force on 1 June 2007.Manufacturers and importers are required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. 
    • Launched in June 2014 - the RISCTOX database  (in English). Developed by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) jointly tand the Spanish Trade Union Institute ISTAS have developed the RISCTOX chemicals database. With this database, workers will be able to access data cards through the ETUI website on approximately 100,000 chemicals, many thousands of which can cause cancer, allergies, disrupt the hormonal system or put the reproductive system at risk. Each card specifies the chemicals classification and labelling under the (EU) regulations, its main work uses (solvent, cleaner, paint stripper, etc.), how it affects health, and the occupational diseases it causes.

      The information can be called up simply by entering either the chemical's name or its identification number in the main international chemical inventories into a search box.
      Of the 100,000 or so chemicals listed, the trade unions have identified nearly 570 as substances of very high concern (SVHC) for putting on their list of priority substances. These are chemicals commonly used in many workplaces including in Australia. 
    • eChemPortal  - from the OECD, this is a global portal to information on chemical substances. It offers free public access to information on properties of chemicals: Physical chemical properties; Environmental Fate and Behaviour; Ecotoxicity and Toxicity

      eChemPortal allows for simultaneous search of multiple databases and provides clearly described sources and quality of data. eChemPortal gives access to data submitted to government chemical review programmes at national, regional, and international levels.
    • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - a series of summaries about hazardous substances developed by the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) Division of Toxicology. Information for this series is excerpted from the ATSDR Toxicological Profiles and Public Health Statements. Each fact sheet serves as a quick and easy to understand guide. Answers are provided to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about exposure to hazardous substances found around hazardous waste sites and the effects of exposure on human health.
    • ILO/CIS Chemical Exposure Limits listing: The ILO's International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS) has an online guide to chemical exposure limits for a number of countries. The list so far includes links to official listings from 27 countries, from Argentina to the USA, including Australia. The CIS listing provides, by country, a brief description of the agency responsible for the exposure limits or the name of the document in which they are published, along with a web link to the actual values.
    • NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a US federal agency which conducts research to prevent illnesses and injuries in the workplace.  NIOSH has a number of very useful websites: 
      • Information on hazards and exposures
      • Worker health study summaries - by exposure and by industry
      • The Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG) - The NPG is intended as a source of general industrial hygiene information on several hundred chemicals/classes for workers, employers, and occupational health professionals. Key information and data is provided for chemicals or substance groupings that are found in the work environment. This information should help users recognize and control occupational chemical hazards.
      • Occupational Sentinel Health Events webpages - an online guide to early warning systems for occupational diseases. An Occupational Sentinel Health Event (SHE[O]) is a disease, disability, or untimely death, which is occupationally related and whose occurrence may: provide the impetus for epidemiologic or industrial hygiene studies; or serve as a warning signal that materials substitution, engineering control, personal protection, or medical care may be required. The web resource includes a list of 64 diseases linked to jobs. This breaks down into two groups: those diseases or conditions that, by their inherent nature, are occupationally related, eg the pneumoconioses (dust related lung diseases); and conditions such as lung cancer, leukaemia, peripheral neuropathy and ornithosis, which may or may not be occupationally related. Some non-fatal conditions can be an early indicator that workers are exposed to a serious long-term risk. 
    • The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell - has a surface cleaning online database called CleanerSolutions. The free, interactive web-based tool helps manufacturers find safer cleaning alternatives that perform as well as hazardous chemicals - without increasing risks. The database has over 10 years of performance testing results combined with health and environment indicators. The system helps companies understand how to choose alternatives so that overall risks to workers and the environment are reduced.

      The institute has also undertaken a study looking at safer, cheaper alternatives to five heavily used hazardous chemicals: lead, formaldehyde, perchloroethylene, hexavalent chromium, and di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)   Five chemicals alternatives assessment study, executive summary 
    • The US EPA Safer Choice website provides information on this program which helps consumers, businesses, and institutional buyers identify cleaning and other products that perform well, are cost-effective, and are safer for the environment.
    • Chemicals Health Monitor website from the UK's Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).  The resource provides information about chemicals and related diseases, the links between chemical contaminants and ill health, risk factors associated with these different human health conditions, trends in specific disease incidence, and disease-specific costs. 

    • The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work Dangerous Substances website.  
    • IARC: The International Agency for Research on Cancer for the latest Monographs of cancer causing agents.
    • Oncolink - the website of the Abramson Cancer Centre of the University of Pennsylvania - has cancer information, research and treatment.
    • 'Substitute It Now!' list of 'high concern' chemicals - published by ChemSec, a coalition of non-government and union groups. The SIN List includes of over 625 chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, asbestos and dozens of other industrial carcinogens, reproductive hazards and highly dangerous toxins. 
    • HSE (UK) page on Chemicals: this section of the Health and Safety Executive site is devoted to chemicals.  There are a large number of individual chemicals here.
    • PAN Pesticide Database - A pesticide research database from the pesticides campaign group Pesticides Action Network (PAN) UK with over 6,000 articles, reports and books relating to the health and environmental effects of pesticides, and alternatives to their use. It is searchable and includes a photographic database. This is a great tool for any safety rep concerned about pesticides and safer ways to do the job, whether they work in agriculture, horticulture, pest control or encounter pesticides in any other job.

Last amended October 2020