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Two Views of Safety

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

page 4 of 5

Where is the high ground in sustainable fragrances? There are some goals that everyone embraces: careful stewardship of resources, reduction of carbon footprint, social responsibility, and safety for both humans and the environment. Most of the Sustainable Fragrances 2010 conference speakers considered those issues and more—natural ingredients, green sourcing, meeting standards, regulatory conformance, to name but a few.

Regarding the question of safety, a few conclusions are reasonable based on a detailed knowledge of the industry:

  1. Disclosure of fragrance formulas isn’t going to help anyone.
  2. The work of the RIFM and the IFRA Standards guarantee a high degree of safety and are being constantly improved.
  3. The DfE Criteria are very restrictive, making perfume creation difficult, but offer a clear path to earning a government-endorsed, voluntary seal for specific products.
  4. EWG uses what looks like real science, but it is seriously flawed and biased.

The EWG report was immediately repudiated by the industry through the Personal Care Products Council,7 The Fragrance Materials Association8 and RIFM.9 Unfortunately, it is harder to explain science than to invoke emotions. The hardest part of convincing the public that fragrances are safe, or that any chemical is safe, is the low level of scientific literacy in society. John Bailey, chief scientist, Personal Care Products Council, said it well: “Cosmetic and personal care product manufacturers take their safety responsibilities very seriously. Cosmetic ingredients are carefully selected for safety and suitability for their specific applications, and consumers can be confident in the safety of their products.” Amen.


  5. For Consortium information: Contact Hans van Bergen at
  6. J Corley, Opinion: Formulating Fragrances for NPA and DfE, Perfumer & Flavorist, 35 9 (2010)

(All sites accessed Sept. 9, 2010)