Quick facts about the chemical reassessment programme

Some further questions and answers about what, why, and how chemicals are reassessed.

What's an approval?

All chemicals classed as hazardous substances in New Zealand must have an approval before they can be imported, manufactured or used in New Zealand.

The approval includes a number of rules (or controls) such as labelling and packaging requirements and may also refer to how, when and where the chemical may be used, stored and disposed of.

Does a reassessment look at the chemical or the approval?

We are reassessing the chemical and how it is used. We may make changes to its approval as a result of the reassessment.

How much does a reassessment cost?

Reassessments can be complex, and can cost more than $1 million. They may cover a single formulated substance, a single chemical and all related substances, or a wider group of substances.

How many reassessments will we carry out in a year?

Each reassessment is likely to be different and it is hard to predict this variability both in size and complexity.

Are any of the chemicals on the list banned overseas?

Yes. Some of the chemicals on the priority chemicals list are banned overseas for specific uses. The majority have a variety of other restrictions and controls on their use ranging from prohibited uses, very specific use only, and restricted to professional use only. 

Are all the chemicals on the priority list dangerous?

Most chemicals can be dangerous and present harm or risk if handled incorrectly, irresponsibly, or they are misused. All the chemicals on the priority list are approved, with rules (or controls) on how they can be used to mitigate risk of harm to people or the environment.

Science-based evidence, research and understanding about chemicals increases every day, and the latest information indicates these chemicals on our priority list require further review and scrutiny, to ensure any risks to people and the environment continue to be managed effectively.

What about chemicals that are not on the list?

All chemicals, if they are classified as hazardous substances, will carry with them some degree of risk. Our priority chemicals list identifies those chemicals which we believe are most in need of further review and scrutiny at this time. It is a 'living' list. We will continue screening chemicals to identify candidates for the priority list.

Why are chemicals that concern thousands of New Zealanders, like 1080, triclosan, glyphosate, neonicotinoids, methyl bromide, not on the EPA’s priority list?

They do not appear on the list because, based on their hazard profile and their risk to human and environmental health, they do not meet the priority criteria.

When compared directly to other chemicals we have screened using the same methodology and criteria, there are a large number currently being used in New Zealand, which present a greater risk to human and environmental health. These are the ones identified in the in the priority chemicals list. 

We understand that chemicals are an emotive issue for all New Zealanders. Our work with international partners to peer-review our approach demonstrates our approach is in line with internationally accepted practices.

Why is glyphosate not on the priority chemicals list?

Our priority chemicals list is supported by a more advanced screening approach which has identified those chemicals that present the greatest risk to human and environmental health.

Glyphosate was screened using the same methodology, along with over 700 other chemicals using our FRCaST tool. Glyphosate can been found in the screened chemical list as having been screened overall into priority group E.

The EPA’s position is that glyphosate remains safe to use when following the instructions on the product’s label. This is consistent with other regulators worldwide. We will continue to actively monitor and review new scientific and relative evidence in relation to glyphosate, as it is released.

Why are neonicotinoids not on the priority chemicals list?

Neonicotinoids are not currently being reassessed as part of the programme. 

In response to the revised European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) risk assessment published in February 2018, the EPA opened a call for information on their use in New Zealand and is currently seeking information about neonicotinoids to better understand some specific aspects in relation to our environment.

The information obtained will enable us to further review the risks identified by EFSA. This will determine if they are applicable and relevant to New Zealand’s use and volume.

How does the reassessment work relate to the firefighting foam chemicals, PFAS and PFOA, and the priority list?

Importing and manufacturing fire-fighting foams containing PFOS or PFOA was effectively prohibited in New Zealand in 2006 (under the Fire-Fighting Chemicals Group Standard).

PFOS is harmful in the environment. Further research is needed to understand whether there are human health effects from long-term exposure; there are no known short-term effects.

Its use and management is restricted internationally under an agreement called the Stockholm Convention, as it is a persistent organic pollutant (POP).

What chemicals are next? Is the priority chemical list in order?

We will not necessarily work through the priority chemical list in the order it appears on our website. This is for many reasons. It is a 'living' list, and may be changed as new information comes to hand, prompting us to reprioritise our list to focus on chemicals with higher risk profiles.

Can I keep using the chemicals while the reassessment is underway?

Yes. In most cases, the reassessment process does not impact on the approval until after the matter has been considered by the HSNO decision committee and the decision has been made and published. We recommend that users pay particular care and attention to complying with the label, use and safety data sheet (SDS) instructions. 

How will you take public concerns into consideration?

We are transparent about our work and information about the reassessments programme. All information is available on our website.

As individual reassessments progress, we will make calls for information, and there may be public consultation and a hearing.

We fully expect and encourage interested parties to submit information as part of our risk and benefits assessment. Anyone who chooses to provide a submission can choose to be heard at a public hearing, as part of the decision-making process.