Most Popular in:


Email This Item! Print This Item!

INCI Name: Fragrance

By: Steve Herman
Posted: November 1, 2011, from the November 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 3 of 4

Fragrance materials have diverse safety profiles, from those so bad they have been banned, to those good enough to eat. Though by cruel irony, being edible doesn’t necessarily imply safety to the skin, as they involve radically different exposure routes. It is counterintuitive, and a fine example of why the science of safety is so challenging. Communicating the science clearly and simply is a necessary adjunct to disclosure.

To its credit, IFRA, including IFRA North America (IFRA NA, formerly FMA), have cooperated with the transparency effort.2 IFRA has made public a list of 3,163 fragrance ingredients used globally, and IFRA NA has provided EPA with a list of more than 600 materials used in air fresheners and more than 1,500 materials used in EPA-registered pesticide products.

These organizational actions, laudable as they are, need the support of all industry players. And let us be perfectly clear and scream it from the rooftops, fragrances are very safe. We are infinitely less likely to have a harmful reaction from a fragrance than from a peanut, shellfish or strawberries, so this is, in a sense, a tempest in a teacup. But by disclosing ingredients and making the safety criteria imposed on fragrances as transparent as possible, the single greatest criticism of the industry is removed.

The justifications for secrecy, valid in 1970, have long ago expired. Full and public disclosure will bring the industry one step closer to proving what it first thought in the 1960s—that it is best to self-regulate.


  1. S Herman, Chemical Reaction: Toxicology in the Age of Twitter, GCI 179 2 54–55 (March 2011)