Hazardous Substances Compliance Senior Advisor Emily Chau

I trained as a pharmacist, supporting people’s health. Often I felt like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff when medical intervention was needed to help them back to good health.

Photo of Hazardous Substances Compliance Senior Advisor Emily ChauHelping to protect the environment and the world we live in is not so different to preventative healthcare – creating the kind of healthy environment that supports a nation’s well-being.

Hazardous substances are all around us, in everyday products from dishwashing detergent to mouthwash.

There are more than 150,000 hazardous substances in New Zealand. Their regulation is extremely complex, with many government agencies playing a part. It’s important that we work together to ensure positive outcomes.

Our approvals team is made up of scientists, toxicologists, and ecotoxicologists – all using their skills and expertise to work out the risks and hazards associated with hazardous substances. They ensure evidence-based science informs decisions to approve or decline hazardous substance applications.

Even when something is approved, rules are usually put in place to ensure it is used and managed safely. The job of our compliance team is to ensure that the rules are being followed.

The compliance team is out and about inspecting businesses that sell, import or make hazardous substances. We go all over New Zealand to verify whether chemicals are being used in line with the rules.

Most recently, we have been checking cosmetics sold in discount stores to confirm whether their ingredients comply with the rules for cosmetics and toiletries. This is important work because these products are intended to be applied directly to the body, and are available to young and to vulnerable people who should be protected from harm.

Our science plays a key role in protecting people and the environment in a way that doesn’t compromise economic growth and jobs. It’s a delicate balancing act. I’m proud of what we do.