The Industrial Chemicals Act 2019 (Cth) is due to commence in July 2020. This Commonwealth Act is a direct response to lobbying efforts from Humane Society International and Humane Research Australia, who partnered together for the “#BeCrueltyFree Australia” campaign against animal testing.
The Act establishes the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS). This Scheme is designed to regulate the manufacture and importation of industrial chemicals in Australia. It is presumed that the Scheme will predominantly affect industries such as mining, manufacturing and building and construction.
Of particular note, the Act embodies Australia’s commitment to ban animal testing for cosmetic purposes – a commitment that emerged during the 2016 Federal election. Many other nations have made similar commitments, including the European Union, India and New Zealand.
Cosmetic is defined under the Act to include a substance or preparation intended for placement in contact with any external part of the human body, with a view to:
- Altering the odours of the body;
- Changing its appearance;
- Cleansing it;
- Maintaining it in good condition;
- Perfuming it; or
- Protecting it.
The new law will not directly prohibit animal testing for cosmetic purposes. Under the legislation, any new animal test data cannot be relied on to support the manufacture and/or importation of industrial chemicals, provided that the industrial chemicals are to be used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients. In a roundabout way the Act deters future animal testing and encourages use of alternative test methods.
Humane Research Australia president Monika Merkes has outlined various alternative test methods, which include:
- In-vitro methods ie cells from human skin that have been made to grow in labs;
- Computer-based methods; and
- Tests on human skin donated to research.
The Act will not apply retrospectively, meaning there are no restrictions on animal test data conducted prior to 1 July 2020.
There are more than 20,000 safe chemical ingredients available for use by manufacturers of cosmetic products, yet Australians still use international products that have been tested on animals. This is despite a finding that approximately 85% of Australians are not supportive of cosmetic testing on animals.
Sadly, the Act does not go so far as to ban the importation of cosmetic products manufactured overseas, which contain industrial chemicals that have been tested on animals. However, Australia should be praised for at least taking a step in the right direction.