What do toothpaste, explosives, veterinary medicine and solvents have in common? They are all classified as hazardous substances, which we regulate.

Hazardous substances are any chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that meets hazardous classification criteria. These criteria include:

  • explosiveness
  • flammability
  • toxicity to people
  • ability to cause cancer
  • toxicity to the environment
  • their ability to generate a different hazardous substance on contact with air or water.

Hazardous substances – including petrol, solvents, explosives, industrial chemicals, fireworks, agrichemicals, household cleaners and cosmetics — need to be approved before they can be used in New Zealand.

We are New Zealand's environmental regulator

We regulate pesticides, household chemicals and other dangerous goods and substances under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. We make decisions on whether to approve new hazardous substances. We put rules in place called controls to manage the risks of hazardous substances and to safeguard people and the environment.

Our approvals for hazardous substances are recorded in the HSNO application register. We do not provide certification of previous approvals and we don't issue registration certificates, composition certificates, or the like. Anyone can access the HSNO application register to confirm whether a substance is approved or not.

A substance can only be approved if the positive effects (the benefits) outweigh the adverse effects (the risks and costs).

As well as evaluating and approving substances, we can reassess substances and make new decisions about whether the controls need to be updated, or whether the substance needs to be banned.

We also administer hazardous waste and ozone-depleting substances.

Our Safer Homes programme has advice on keeping yourself, whānau, and the environment safe around hazardous substances.