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Two Views of Safety

By: Steve Herman
Posted: November 5, 2010, from the November 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

“Do you think when two representatives holding diametrically opposing views get together and shake hands, the contradictions between our systems will simply melt away? What kind of a daydream is that?”—Nikita Khrushchev

In its second year, Sustainable Fragrances 2010, held May 20–21 in Virginia, drew 102 attendees, up from 72 the previous year. It is clearly a subject of growing interest—but what exactly is sustainability and how do we get it in fragrances? In the broadest sense, it can embrace renewable resources, reduced carbon footprint, natural or organic sourcing, social responsibility—with a presumption of human and environmental safety and regulatory compliance.

Opposing approaches to safety can be exemplified by the activities of DfE (Design for the Environment, part of the Environmental Protection Agency) and EWG (Environmental Working Group). The meeting opened with a preconference seminar on the DfE Criteria for Fragrances, which had just been released to stakeholders in draft form. The complete criteria is now posted on the DfE website.1 The complete criteria will be uploaded after a complete review is finished. The last conference speaker was from EWG, and, by coincidence, EWG had just released a scathing critique of the fragrance industry.

The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) has long been the standard bearer for fragrance safety. The science established by the external and independent Expert Panel is transformed into standards by The International Fragrance Association (IFRA).

RIFM has a risk-based approach, with safe use based on product categories and specifics publicly available on the IFRA website (www.ifraorg.org). There are no dark secrets in the RIFM/IFRA assessments.