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April 30, 2008

Cropwatch at the Cross-Roads

Cropwatch Statement

After 4 or 5 years of continuous activity, Cropwatch has some choices to make. Do we go on the way that we have been, snapping at the ankles of those who run & regulate the aroma industry so badly, or should we 'old dogs' learn some new tricks? Cropwatch supporters, and organisations sympathetic to our aims, regularly offer us donations and advise us of potential sources of grants, to which we have always said 'no thanks, we're non-financed'. Our current thinking is that this might be a mistake, since we are limiting our potential effectiveness. .

We are certainly not asking everyone for money, but we are asking you to help us with some feedback on how a financial input could potentially help the aroma world to become a better & fairer place, so please mail us if you have any thoughts or ideas.

Our initial list of ideas to use donated funding would be:

1. To finance risk/benefit studies on natural aromatic products. This research is needed because the existing major players such as IFRA/RIFM, are set up only to investigate the risks/hazards of fragrance ingredients (but not the benefits), & EFFA can only present the safety risks of essential oils, absolutes, resinoids etc in terms of the imagined hazards of the individual contained chemicals, rather than adopting a holistic approach for the aromatic ingredient as a whole. Therefore both organisations are badly positioned to defend natural aromatic ingredients against the current avalanche of restrictive legislation. The EU Commissioners have previously declined to accept safety-data based on risk/benefit considerations, although we believe this policy to be untenable in the long-term - it is the norm in virtually every other regulatory area (biocides, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc).

[Neither is this just a European problem. The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce have just announced draft legislation (Global Harmonisation Act 2008) intended to stimulate discussion on how to provide adequate funding and authority for the FDA to ensure the safety of the nation's food, drug, medical device and cosmetic supply in an increasingly globalised marketplace. The draft legislation already highlights several areas which will affect the fragrance industry]. 

2. To develop statistical data on the adverse effects of restricted & prohibited aromatic materials. This data would be a potential bombshell to blow apart the over-precautionary approaches of the cosmetic regulators and career toxicologists, who are in such a powerful position in global regulatory circles. Where this data exists (e.g. the Schnuch data on alleged allergens) it is already causing red faces. The EU Commissioner has previously indicated to Cropwatch (Brussels 2007) that this type of adverse reaction data is inadmissible as safety evidence. But if you are familiar with English history, you might recall that King Canute failed to hold back the waves and so his followers realised he was not all-powerful. So too, the regulators will not be able to ignore the fact that many restrictions on natural products are based on corporate toxicological constructs which don't manifest in the great numbers of negative health effects predicted.

3. To assist with the growing & production of useful commodities from threatened aromatic plants, for cosmetic, aromatherapeutic, flavour & medicinal outlets, in a way that benefits the poor.

4. To set up or help set up a natural aromatics products professional body, with the help of other interested parties. Already we can identify several sub-divided areas which badly need assistance: natural perfumery, the use of naturals within conventional perfumery, natural biocides, herbal drugs & medicines, aromatherapy, natural cosmetics etc. 

5. The lobbying of officials & regulators. As we have seen, the more the establishment closes ranks (and its mind) to contrary & dissenting views, the more popular support we have been able to attract. In terms of numbers we are potentially a powerful force. However we have to ask ourselves whether there is any point in continuing the lobbying game. Many of the points we make go unanswered because the officials involved are not sufficiently technically adept or experienced to even understand the arguments put forward. So is it better to plough ahead with a voluntary regulatory system of our own making - at least we might have the experience, familiarity & resources to do a better job. The enormity of the task is detracting, but this is put more into perspective if sufficient funding were to be available.  

6. To keep the flame of our traditional perfumery heritage alight. When we read that several major aroma corporations are training fledgling perfumers in pure synthetic perfumery, it makes us wonder if the world has gone quite mad. Once perfumers used to be creative artists with forthright temperaments, views and opinions, passionate about their art. Now, are we all to be reduced to company drones? I was related a story recently concerning a certain essential oils salesman who offered unmarked samples of  real good quality Bulgarian lavender oil, and a synthetic lavender construct to a group of young perfumers at a certain megacorporation. The group preferred the artificial lavender construct because "it smelled like linalyl acetate, like its supposed to."  Heaven help us! But maybe some of us 'old-timers' should organise courses & lectures to pass on the 'ancient knowledge of the art of perfumery' before it is lost forever.   

OK, after 5 or so years of trying, we pretty much know what the problems facing us are - what we don't have is a consensus on the best way to solve them. Maybe you can help?

Cropwatch Team

Posted by Tony Burfield on April 30, 2008 in Organizations, Perfumery, Politics, Regulatory Issues, Research, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2008

Furanocoumarins in Cosmetics: What’s all the Fuss About?

Copyright © Tony Burfield April 2008 


The EU Cosmetics Commission, well known for setting the pace worldwide for
(over-)-precautionary cosmetics legislation, is seemingly determined to limit furanocoumarins (FC’s) in retailed fragranced products to minutely low levels. This is because they consider that these materials present a potential photomutagenic & photocarcinogenic risk to users, when products containing these items are applied to the skin and subsequently exposed to sunlight. The IFRA proposals to limit FC’s in such products are being opposed by Cropwatch amongst others. Cropwatch favour no furanocoumarin restrictions for aroma ingredients, but propose reliance on an alternative warning label solution (‘only wear under heavy clothing’ or ‘if applied to the skin, do not expose to sunlight for 12-24h’). Major sources of FC’s in fragrances are citrus oils, especially cold-pressed citrus oils, and FC’s are especially prevalent in lemon, grapefruit, lime & bergamot qualities. We are also exposed to furanocoumarins from vegetables & fruit in the diet, which may also slightly increase our chances of developing adverse outcomes such as melanoma after sunlight exposure, or which may interfere with the metabolism of prescribed drugs (e.g. from consumption of grapefruit juice etc.). However, as we have learned, because of the way that the EU legislature is set-up & advised, more stringent precautionary legislation applies to cosmetics within the EU than it ever does for foodstuffs. 

Cropwatch FC Data-Base 

Because of the lack of accurate information on FC’s in aromatic raw material ingredients, Cropwatch has extensively updated its Furanocoumarins A-Z listing in Natural Aromatics (the latest update can be seen at http://www.cropwatch.org/FC A-Z.pdf). Cropwatch took on the task of constructing this data-base because of the relative unavailability of accurate information on citrus oil furanocoumarin distribution to essential oil users and to perfume formulators. As can be checked from the data-base, the information on furanocoumarins which IFRA/RIFM has previously published,  is often insufficiently detailed (in terms of botanical species, variety, geographical region, processing methodology and time of season) to be particularly useful. Cropwatch has also included its previous notes on the importance of citrus ingredients to the perfumery art, and also presents notes & references on photo-toxicological topics, as well as notes on individual FC’s and their occurrence in natural products.

The information on furanocoumarin concentrations within citrus & other aroma ingredients is needed in the light of IFRA's proposals, currently set before the EU Commission, whereby six major marker furanocoumarins have been identified by IFRA, and it is proposed that their concentration (in any combination) within retailed fragranced cosmetics should not exceed 5ppm for products left on the skin, and 50ppm in wash-off products. Although IFRA's proposals are slightly less severe than the previous blanket proposal by the SCCP to limit all furanocoumarins (whether phototoxic or not) & furanocoumarin-like substances (nobody knows what this definition means!) to 1ppm in cosmetic products across the board, they are still unworkable. In particular the FC proposals spell the end of the line for natural perfumery, as exemplified in traditional citrus colognes, chypres, fougeres etc. Eighty to ninety percent of male fragrances (and a smaller percentage of female fragrances) also contain citrus oils, and so will be severely affected also. But, since DG-Ent/SCCP has a history of rubber-stamping IFRA policy, it can only be assumed that EU legislation will eventually reflect IFRA’s proposals. However, Cropwatch has learned that many cosmetic companies are sufficiently brave and independent-thoughted enough to plan to simply ignore any rulings on future furanocoumarin limitation. 

As can be verified from the data-base, the degree of risk associated with the phototoxicity/photocarcinogenicity of furanocoumarin-containing essential oils, such as cold-pressed bergamot oil, has never been universally agreed amongst toxicologists & dermatologists, over the past several decades. Slightly modifying a passage from the data-base might be illuminating here. In 1988, Young et al. found that a bergapten induced tan is protective against the DNA-damaging effects of solar radiation (bergapten is a major FC in bitter orange, grapefruit, bergamot & other citrus peel oils). Following the finding that the use of bergapten applied in sunscreen enhanced the body’s natural protection for several weeks, even when the sunscreen plus bergapten use was discontinued, funds were provided by the Cancer Research Campaign & Laboratoires Bergaderm to develop a lotion to improve the body’s natural defences (Anon 1992). This product, believed to contain some 30ppm bergapten, was eventually trialed as reported in the media (Hunt 1992). However worries about the furanocoumarin photocarcinogenicity led the EC to order Laboratoires Bergaderm not to release their bergapten-containing Bergasol product onto the market past July 1996 (Goldemberg 1996), eventually forcing Laboratoires Bergaderm into liquidation. It is very difficult for Cropwatch to predict whether, on balance, this EC action subsequently caused deaths or saved lives. What it does illustrate is the rising power of non-technical, non-elected bureaucrats, who are even prepared to act in areas where there is not a 100% consensus of scientific opinion, against the policies of bodies like the Cancer Research Campaign (for references see the A-Z listing). [Thanks to Martin Watt for supplying articles verifying this story]. 

To recap the inadequate state of knowledge that we have on FC’s, the full range of identities of FC’s within many individual citrus & other essential oils (e.g. angelica & cumin) is still incomplete. The properties & phototoxic effects of individual furanocoumarins too are largely unknown, as very pure samples of the materials have been difficult or impossible for toxicologists to obtain. The mutual interactions of substituted coumarins & furanocoumarins within essential oils, their actions when applied to biological systems (the skin) remain virtually unexplored. Risk/benefit considerations of complex biological substances containing furanocoumarins are hardly touched on, and are unlikely to be since RIFM is only geared to evaluate risk, and the Cosmetics Commission still lives in the Dark Ages as it will not accept risk/benefit evaluations (although it will have to eventually). Further, three recent papers on the (pseudo)photo-plastogenicity of cosmetic ingredients (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) highlight the fact that the methodology of these in vitro studies are seriously flawed – so much so that one group of researchers (Lynch et al. 2008 – see the data-base!) has called for an urgent review of phototoxicity testing techniques as applied to cosmetic materials. Yet, despite these fundamental detractions, some unseen hand appears to be cracking the whip over the EU Commissioners heads, who in turn appear to be exerting pressure on industry for answers & progress. But the science simply isn't there to justify any hasty and ill-conceived legislation on these matters. We don't even know how therapies involving furanocoumarins, such as PUVA, actually work. 

End Thoughts 

In summary, proposals to severely limit furanocoumarins in cosmetic products to such proposed minute levels mentioned above will prohibit the effective use of many citrus oil ingredients within fragrances. Many of us will see this eventuality as an act of cultural vandalism, and we known that many MEP's at Brussels, too, are concerned at the way the Cosmetics Commissioners are systematically wrecking our cultural heritage of high-art perfumery. Enough is enough. It is not the brief of the EU Cosmetics Commission to permanently damage the art of perfumery by denying perfumers the use of 'un-messed about' citrus ingredients, 

Cropwatch wishes to thank those who have contributed, and are continuing to contribute, information to the furanocoumarins data-base. Updates to the data-base will continue to be issued.

Tony Burfield for Cropwatch

Posted by Tony Burfield on April 28, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Perfumery, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2008

Comment: The QRA – Quandaries, Reflections & Updates

Copyright © Tony Burfield April 2008. 

QRA – A Potted History 

The Qualitative Risk Assessment (QRA) methodology was recommended as a result of progress of the COLIPA Toxicology Advisory Group and the Joint COLIPA/AISE/EFFA/IFRA Perfume Safety Group, to address dermal sensitisation risk assessment for fragrance ingredients. IFRA adopted this corporate-science derived approach for contact allergens in 2005, when we were informed it was a risk management strategy designed to combat the occurrence of consumer dermal sensitisation, via the restriction of these ingredients in fragranced cosmetic products. This exposure-based system was to be applied across a number of product types grouped into 11 product categories of products (1 to 9 being cosmetic products), setting the concentration limits of individual sensitisers to 'safe levels' for each product category. 

Thus for skin contact, dose per unit area and other considerations could be of primary importance in helping set safe levels of dermal allergens. Information on the QRA system is comprehensively set out in great detail on the IFRA website. The first QRA standards were published by IFRA in May 2006, as part of the 40th IFRA Amendment, and we were told that QRA methodology could be used to set IFRA standards for materials identified as dermal sensitisers where no standards previously existed, or to review the existing IFRA standards. For a while, the old IFRA Standard system would be maintained, whilst industry was getting used to the new QRA system, and making computer reprogramming adjustments etc. 

The first four trialed sensitisers chosen under the QRA system were citral, farnesol, phenylacetaldehyde and tea leaf absolute. EFFA submitted data to the SCCP on citral, farnesol & phenylacetaldehyde, apparently by invitation from the SCCP, who said they needed sensitivity data on IFRA restricted materials to include them in Annex III of the Cosmetics Directive. At the time IFRA restrictions for citral & phenylacetaldehyde were listed in the Inventory part II with quenching proviso’s, but un-noted by the SCCP, IFRA had quietly ditched support for the quenching phenomena (see Cropwatch Review on this topic at http://www.cropwatch.org/newslet8.pdf). Thus the limits for citral under the QRA – IFRA’s 40th Amendment become:

Category Products Limit
1 Lip Products, Toys, Insect Repellents 0.04%
2 Deodorants/Antiperspirants 0.05%
3 Hydroalcoholic Products for Shaved Skin, Eye Products, Men’s Facial Cream & Balms, Tampons 0.2%
4 Hydroalcoholic Products for Unshaved Skin, Hair Styling Aids & Sprays, Body Creams] 0.6%
5 Women’s Facial Cream/Facial Make-Up, Hand Cream, Facial masks 0.3%
6 Mouthwash, Toothpaste 1%
7 Intimate Wipes, Baby Wipes 0.1%
8 Make-up Remover, Hair Styling Aids Non-Spray, Nail Care 1.4%
9 Shampoo, Rinse-off Conditioners, Bar Soap, Feminine Hygiene Pads & Liners 5%
10 Detergents, Hard Surface Cleaners, Diapers 2.5%
11 All Non-Skin or Incidental Skin Contact Products No restriction

Citral distribution amongst some common essential oils is given in IFRA’s 40th Amendment Appendix 1 Part 1, where you will find values ranging from <90% for lemongrass oils to <0.1% for orange oil sweet (as usual with IFRA, botanical details & geographical origin details are not provided). Similarly, data is presented for farnesol distribution in some natural products.

A pity too, that before EFFA forwarded IFRA’s evidence to the SCCP, they didn’t consider the work of Sanchez-Politta et al. (2007) which indicates that there is little independent peer-reviewed evidence to actually support the classification of phenylacetaldehyde as a sensitiser. It has to be asked therefore, who’s interests are being served here? Certainly not the fragrance industry or the consumer’s. 

Taken overall, we don’t understand why the EU Commission seemingly has a vested interest in furthering the QRA approach, since not all toxicologists support its rationale, and the results from the various animal test protocols which can be used to calculate the EC3 values to predict likely sensitiser potency classifications are often conflicting, such that Dean et al. (2001) correctly surmised that the LLNA test would not correctly identify weak sensitisers or all strong irritants. Further there is very little in the way of aggregate exposure data to support the toxicology, and what there is seems to contradict the predicted classification of sensitizer potency. It is quite possible, from what we have seen so far of the workings of the Cosmetics Commission, that Commission staff themselves are largely are unaware of any other arguments on this subject. Therefore Cropwatch objected to the Regulator (see http://www.cropwatch.org/objectcitral.pdf) that this first use of the QRA methodology did not follow the correct Rules of Legal Procedure Re: Requests for SCCP Opinions in relation to Risk Assessment (C7 2004 D/370235), but we were over-ruled. We also repeated the Storrs argument (Storrs 2007) that DG-Ent/SCCP need to clearly set out & review the basis on which fragrance chemicals have previously been classified as allergens under Directive 2003/15/EC, amending Directive 76/768/EEC, before embarking on any further restrictions (e.g. for citral, farnesol & phenylacetaldehyde). Since only 5 allergens are confirmed as having been the direct cause of clinical allergy, a review of the situation seems imperative. This crucial point has been lost, but Cropwatch predicts, will come back to haunt them, as the rubber-stamping of IFRA's previous opinions on allergens by the SCCP was demonstrably unsafe, as is pretty-well universally acknowledged in the trade. 

In May 2007, the 42nd IFRA Amendment was introduced, to enable the QRA system to be used as a basis to review & redefine IFRA standards set on the basis of dermal sensitisation (16 standards) plus 14 new standards. These were said to cover most of the chemicals currently involved in allergen labeling. Further, as some of these new IFRA standards include ingredients that are present in essential oils and extracts, so these ingredients will also be affected. 

Cropwatch Responds To Bullying

The level of bureaucracy required to enact the QRA approach required that unless perfumes were designed hand-in-hand with software package (such as Formpack), perfumers & formulators would be unable to keep up with the level of calculations required to determine the allowable levels of sensitizers. In early 2007 (15th Jan) Cropwatch started a petition against & announced a boycott of the IFRA 40th Amendment, pointing out that the QRA was creating a hostile environment for the aroma trade, and that the effects of the QRA approach would effectively favour synthetics at the expense of natural aromatics. Cropwatch also alleged discrimination against SME's, since the implementation of this complex approach would make enormously demands on the scarce resources of both small- & micro-organisations. To date, the petition mentioned above has been signed by more than 950, perfumers, natural perfumers, soap-makers, essential oil producers, distributors & users (see http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ifra40/signatures-20.html), and the petition was eventually presented to IFRA in mid-2007. IFRA did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt of the petition, or to respond in any way, reflecting (in my opinion) the contempt it holds for those who disagree with them. 

Before this, P&F now had started to run a web-poll for votes for and against the QRA issue (see http://www.perfumerflavorist.com/newsletter/5326381.html), and Cropwatch with its massive support from the natural perfumery, essential-oil-using-, soap-making & crafting sectors quickly overwhelmed the poll. Because IFRA was losing heavily (85.1%-14.9%), Jean-Paul Henri, IFRA Director-General, called foul and publicly rapped Jeb Gleason (P&F editor) over the knuckles, so that a grovelling note from Gleason subsequently appeared together with  an accompanying  mail  from Houri (see http://www.perfumerflavorist.com/newsletter/5957641.html). Poll results disappeared from the website & Cropwatch was not invited to put their side of the story - thus history was re-written. In spite of Cropwatch's considerable influence in the perfumery sector, P&F have never printed a single word about Cropwatch activities since (so much for the notion of a free aroma trade press). Louise Prance ran an article on 2nd Mar 2007 for Cosmetics-Design Europe, independently taking the Cropwatch theme that IFRA (exclusively) promotes synthetic ingredients in fragrances, which was hastily taken down, re-written and put-up again, following an objection by Jean-Pierre Houri (Cropwatch has both versions of the article on file). Private correspondence between Houri & Prance has since been circulated amongst aroma trade organisation members (Cropwatch also has a copy of this on file). By the time that Prance had left Cosmetics-Design Europe, Cropwatch was being pilloried on the IFRA website over its opposition to the QRA system (we think this has subsequently been taken down, after Cropwatch claimed that the piece had given us a lot of positive publicity, although there remains a brief mention in IFRA Newsletter Jan 2007). Basenotes invited Burfield and Houri to put their different cases, Burfield bringing up a number of issues at http://www.basenotes.net/columnists/20070223cropwatchvsifra.html. In contrast Houri (not a scientist) chose to give a short propaganda piece about IFRA's policy, its connectivity, its power & importance, not answering any of the specific issues raised (see http://www.basenotes.net/columnists/20070223cropwatchvsifra.html). 

New Developments

In a curious out-of-character move, EFFA have suddenly presented the Schnuch opinions to DG-Enterprise, for labeling requirements for 10 allergens of the notorious ‘26 allergens’ to be reconsidered, on the grounds that in trials, these ingredients rarely present as allergens and in three cases, have not presented at all (Schnuch et al. 2007, Schnuch 2005). This is hardly new; Cropwatch have been imploring the EU Commissioners to look at the Schnuch findings from July 2004 (pub. 2005) for 4 years. These misclassified ingredients are identified (Schnuch et al. 2007) as benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, methyl heptine carbonate, hexyl cinnamal, anisyl alcohol, linalol, benzyl salicylate, amyl cinnamal, limonene & a-methyl ionone (see http://www.cropwatch.org/Cropwatch Claims Victory Over 26 Allergens.pdf). Let’s further consider the implications of this strange move by EFFA. Does it mean that EFFA are (at last) at variance with IFRA policy over the 26 alleged allergen situation? Where does the Schnuch evidence leave the QRA approach? (wrecked!). Does this also mean that EFFA are now pressing DG-Enterprise to consider adverse end-user data present in the Schnuch evidence? - this outcome was, of course, previously ruled as inadmissible to Cropwatch by the Regulator in a Brussels meeting in 2007. Or do different rules now apply for EFFA safety evidence submissions, as opposed to Cropwatch submissions? 

The Oko-test results of Schunch et. al (2004) also identified citral and farnesol in the "rarely found as allergens" category, although in a previous paper Schnuch et al. (2004) had found that farnesol was an important allergen. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, EFFA had previously presented evidence to the SCCP that citral & farnesol should be considered allergens under the QRA system. So (considering the less ambiguous citral case) are EFFA supporting some parts of the Schnuch evidence, but not other parts? It’s all very confusing. EFFA have also taken up the several Cropwatch references from the work of Hostynek & Maibach which broadly suggests that the evidence used to classify anisyl alcohol, amylcinnamic aldehyde, linalol, geraniol, citronellol, alpha-methyl-iso-ionone & methyl heptine carbonate as allergens is not sufficiently scientifically robust on which to base legislation. Again this would seem to potentially undermine the position of the QRA, so we have no idea of EFFA’s motives. It also reflects on the undue haste with which the EU Cosmetics Commission is acting these days, pushing industry for results & policies when the science isn’t sufficiently developed & mature to oblige them. 

IFRA in its Information Letter 801 (02.08.2008), are to introduce yet another costly QRA U-turn for industry, under the forthcoming 43rd IFRA Amendment. Having sold (as a benefit) the fact that under the QRA approach, higher use levels could be introduced for some materials than the current IFRA Standards allow, in the next breath they change their minds, as “increased exposure due to elevated use levels presents a theoretical possibility that certain pre-sensitised individuals might experience an allergic contact dermatitis where previously they had not.” This gets the 2008 Cropwatch Prize for a Statement of the Bleedin’ Obvious, but we are so pleased that IFRA have caught up their thinking with everyone else on this matter. Unfortunately the financial penalty for industry is the re-writing of formulae & the re-programming of computers to re-align to the downwards exposure limits for the 14 new Standards already introduced under the IFRA 42nd Amendment. 


The general realisation that excessive regulation from IFRA/RIFM, EFFA & the EU is killing aroma industry prospects is leading to increasing technical support for Cropwatch from within the industry itself, & from aroma ingredient end-users. Blinding people with science or using high-tech. methodology such as the QRA for safety testing belies the fact that there are fundamental weaknesses in this safety strategy, and no amount of arrogance & posturing by safety officials can obliterate this. The fact that IFRA are unable to defend the use of key aroma ingredients on a risk/benefits basis, and that the EU Commissioners have allowed excessive precautionary principled policies to dominate their agenda, means that the time is right for a new independent safety authority to come along and sweep these people away. 


Dean J.H., Twerdok L.E., Tice R.R., Sailstad D.M., Hattan D.G. & Stokes W.S. (2001) “OCCVAM evaluation of the murine local lymph node assay. II Conclusions & recommendations of an independent scientific peer review panel.” Regulatory Toxicology & Pharmacology 34(3), 258-273. 

Sanchez-Politta S., Campanelli A., Pashe-Koo F., Saurat J.H. & Piletta P. (2007) "Allergic contact dermatitis to phenylacetaldehyde: a forgotten allergen?" Contact Dermatitis 56(3),171-2. 

Schnuch A., Uter W., Geier J., Lessmann H. & Frosch PJ. (2004) "Contact allergy to farnesol in 2021 consecutively patch tested patients. Results of the IVDK." Contact Dermatitis. 50(3), 117-21. Schnuch A. (2005) Öko-Test, No. 7 (July) 2004, 55 

Schnuch A., Uter W., Geier J., Lessmann H. & Frosch P.J. (2007) “Sensitization to 26 fragrances to be labelled according to current European regulation. Results of the IVDK and review of the literature.” Contact Dermatitis. 57(1),1-10. 

Storrs F.J. (2007) “Allergen of the year: fragrance.” Dermatitis 18(1), 3-7.   

Posted by Tony Burfield on April 27, 2008 in Perfumery, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy and sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people. We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. the rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family. The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The waters murmur is the voice of my fathers' father. The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother. If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So, if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers. Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, his is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone? Where will the Eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival. When the last red man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left? We love this earth as a newborn loves its mothers heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all. As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: there is only one God. No man, be he red man or white man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all."

      -Chief Seattle

The nature Conservancy Earth Day Ideas
Take action for climate crisis solutions at we
Recycle old computers, cell phones and other electronics
Earth Day official events and activities
Professional advice for business sustainability initiative
Earth Day Facts from Rochester, NY plus more links
Make every day Earth Day from Madison, Wisconsin
Adverse effects of palm oil by Dove from Greenpeace
We can do it! from Sierra Club
The Rainforest Initiative
Whitefeather Forest Initiative
The African Conservation Foundaton
Long list of intragovernmental, governmental and private (NGO) environmental orgs

That ought to keep us busy.

Happy Earth Day! from all of us at the aromaconnection group blog.  

Posted by Marcia on April 22, 2008 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Events, Human Rights, Organizations, Politics, Regulatory Issues, Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2008

aromatisches Blog - Aromatics Blog

Das aromatische Blog widmet sich den Düften und Wohlgerüchen – dem Parfüm. (The aromatic blog devoted to the scents and smells good - the perfume.)

I've added a new blog to our perfumery blogroll: aromatisches Blog. It's in German, but can be easily translated with Google or other translation software, although the translations are a bit awkward.

Recent posts have discussed Benzyl Acetate (a constituent of jasmine); the difference between Perfume and Cologne; The history of perfume in Greece and mythology; working with crystalline materials; aromatic patchouli; the Berlin Botanical Garden (with plant photos); ESTEBAN patchouli perfume; the history of perfume in the Bible; and some great paintings from 1922 demonstrating that Perfume alone . . . is often not enough . . . you need to have some water.

The blog has been active since July 2007. Note that this blog is not strictly natural perfumery.

Posted by Rob on April 17, 2008 in Perfumery, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2008

New Book "examines" Alternative Medicine

A new book due to published in England later his month (Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernse, published by Bantam on April 21 at £16.99) is excerpted in the [London] Daily Mail with the title Are we being hoodwinked by alternative medicine? Two leading scientists examine the evidence.

Illustrated with a provocative photo showing oil being poured from a vessel containing a rose onto the back of a nude woman (suggesting Rainbow Therapy? or aromatic massage? or?) the authors claim to be evaluating the claims of alternative medicine "by using the principles of evidence-based medicine."

The article includes information on Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Chiropractic Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Magnet Therapy, and Osteopathy and includes a sidebar on "Best and Worst Herbal Remedies."

It's hard to evaluate the information presented in the excerpt from the book prepublished in a newspaper, since there are no references given and the information presented is sketchy at best.  For example, the section on aromatherapy is:


WHAT IS IT? Plant essences (known as "essential oils") are used to treat or prevent illnesses or enhance wellbeing. There are several ways of doing this. Most commonly, the diluted oil is applied to the skin via a gentle massage, but it can also be added to a bath or diffused in the air.

Aromatherapists believe that different essential oils have different specific effects. Aromatherapy is advocated for chronic conditions such as anxiety, tension headache and musculoskeletal pain.

DOES IT WORK? Some clinical trials confirm the relaxing effects of aromatherapy massage. However, this is usually short-lived and therefore of debatable therapeutic value. Some essential oils do seem to have specific effects. For instance, tea tree has anti-microbial properties. However, these efects [sic] are far less reliable those of conventional antibiotics. There is no evidence that aromatherapy can treat specific diseases.

I've had personal experience with several of the therapies covered in this article, and I'm sure that they work. In the case of Aromatherapy, Herbalism, and Magnet Therapy, I'm familiar with enough evidence to suggest that, when used appropriately, they do work.  I've experienced Chiropractic therapy, Massage, and Osteopathy and I can report varying success. I've also experienced our conventional allopathic medicine system with varying success. My personal opinion, as a user of these systems, is that an educated integrative approach is best. In theory, the sort of information included in this book is what is needed for the consumer to evaluate therapies so that they work with their medical providers to get the best possible care. Based on the summary of Aromatherapy above, it would appear to be nothing of the kind. I guess we'll have to wait for the book.

This book appears to be part of a well orchestrated campaign in the UK to discredit alternative medicine.  The same campaign is going on, to a slightly lesser degree, in the US. We've seen that in the media recently, as previously discussed in this blog.


Posted by Rob on April 11, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Book/Movie Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2008

Aromatherapy Thymes Notable Launch

MrMagazine.com, a website/blog for the magazine industry, has declared Aromatherapy Thymes magazine as one of the "30 Most Notable Launches of 2007."

There are many health and medicine magazines jockeying for a position on today’s newsstands, but few give readers the type of information that Aroma Therapy provides which is why it has made it on the list of top launches for 2007.

Mr. Magazine has interviewed Patricia Carol Brooks, the Editorial Director, about the process of creating the magazine. She found her two biggest challenges to be "maintaining the integrity of the essential oil trade through informative articles and staying in contact with essential oil distillers in the U.S and abroad and coordinating the distribution channels for our market." By 2011 she expects the magazine to be "recognized worldwide as a reliable reference for aromatherapy and a publication that brought the distilling, trade, sell and distribution of essential oils to forefront."

There were a total of 715 new magazines launched in 2007, so this actually a fairly significant honor.

The blog link for the interviews is here. (The link above is to their web page, which is slightly abridged.)

Posted by Rob on April 9, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Book/Movie Reviews, Notes and News, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2008

The Definition of Natural


At a webinar presented by Perfumer&Flavorist Magazine last month, there was a discussion of the definition of "natural" when used in the natural products industry, which of course includes the natural aromatic products that are the focus of this blog. The webinar grew out of a similar discussion by natural products retail brand owners and suppliers that was featured in a Special Naturals & Organics issue of "GCI (Global Cosmetics Industry): The Business magazine for the Global Beauty Industry," a sister publication of P&F.

It turns out that the "Natural" Products Industry has not yet agreed upon a definition of what "natural" products are. There is reference in both the Webinar and the article referenced above to an effort to develop a "Natural Personal Care Products Standard" being put together by the Natural Products Association (NPA)and to be discussed at their National Lobbying Day to be held in Washington, DC on April 8.  Unfortunately the NPA didn't get their draft up on their website, so we can't link to the specifics. However, there are other definitions of "Natural" in use.

Burt's Bees has a definition posted on their website that is probably the draft, since the Chair of the NPA committee working on the Standard is from Burt's Bees. The draft requires that products labeled "Natural" must "be made with 95% truly natural ingredients, contain no ingredients with potential suspected human health risks, and use no products that significantly or adversely alter the purity/effect of the natural ingredients." "Natural" is defined as "Ingredients that come from a purposeful, renewable/plentiful source found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral) and using "Processes that are minimal and don't use synthetic/harsh chemicals, or otherwise dilute purity."

The standard goes on to define when non-natural ingredients can be used, and then provides a list of ingredients that should never be used, including (of interest to us because of their use in solvent extraction) Petro Chemicals, and finally to list Processes that should never be used: "Ethoxylation, sulfonation, polymerization and unfavorable varieties of quaternization — Industrial processes using caustic solvents that leave residual compounds and impurities that may end up concealed in the final consumer product."

The draft NCA definition is not the only one out there. The International Association of Natural Product Producers (IANPP) has produced two definitions, one for Natural Ingestible Ingredients and another for Natural Topical Ingredients. They are careful to set these definitions in a context that excludes "considerations such as safety, allergies, toxicity, animal testing, socially responsible packaging and business practices (fair trade, third world projects, responsible use and ingredient disposal, cooperative work environment), respect for endangered species, biodegradability/environmental friendliness, environmentally protective methods of production, etc." These, of course, are important, but in their opinion need to be considered separately from the definition of "natural."

The IANPP definition contains similar elements, but differs from the NCA definition in some significant ways:

  • It doesn't deal with the issue of allowing a percentage of ingredients to not be natural. 
  • It contains a more precise processing limitation: "Any changes to the original natural ingredient must not undergo changes in one or more covalent bonds during manufacturing and/or processing." 
  • It requires that "solvents must be found in nature (originate from plant, animal or inorganic mineral sources) and the processing method must not introduce anything that is not of natural derivation" 
  • It defines synthetic "as a substance not derived from natural sources with biological and/or accepted food processing/handling techniques 
  • It lists acceptable and unacceptable processing methods (of interest to use, the acceptable list includes "cold pressing, ... natural water/alcohol extraction, ... extraction with natural solvents, expeller pressing (oils), steam distillation, [and] supercritical CO2 Extraction...." (ultrasonic extraction is missing from the list). 
  • The unacceptable processing method list contains only two items: Gamma Ray Irradiation and Synthetic solvent extraction. 
  • [I think they've made an error in their web page--under Gamma Ray Irradiation they list two bullets that seem to refer to preservatives], allowing Preservation by thermal, sound, or photochemical methods including microwave, ultrasound, UV, or infrared) but listing nuclear or thermo-nuclear preservative methods as Not Acceptable. 
  • They don't list specific banned chemicals, but instead ban artificial/synthetic "additives, colorings, coloring agents, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, processing aids, carriers, synthetically derived and/or processed contaminants from packaging, GMO’s or other non-natural ingredients" 
  • Require that ingredients be "Be fully disclosed and documented regarding ingredient derivation and method of processing" 
  • Include the words “preserved with” on the label regarding preservative ingredients.

As mentioned in the GCI article, there are some other definitions of natural that are being used by some companies. These all need to be integrated together with a public discussion of the issues.  The NPA intends to have a discussion, I'm sure, but so far it hasn't been out on the web where the small companies who may not be members of the NPA can access it.

I don't think either of the definitions discussed here are adequate to become the exact definition used by the industry. They use somewhat different approaches, and both contain elements that ought to be included. More discussion is definitely needed.

UPDATE: An attempt to contact the IANPP resulted in a response indicating that the IANPP has turned its project over to the NAP and that there should be some results by the end of this year.

Posted by Rob on April 6, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Perfumery, Regulatory Issues, Standards | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 04, 2008

Notes and News

  • P&F has gleaned statistics from Datamonitor on the growth of  the Fair Trade market, stating that "ethical consumerism will increasingly come to the fore as people shop for products they feel akin to politically, ethically and aesthetically."  Aromatic extracts such as essential oils, CO2's and absolutes are not even on the radar screen with the  regulators such as Transfair  and flo-cert.  My report on Cote d'Ivoire cacao production revealed that determining abuses will not be an easy job. The P&F article predicts a 15.7% growth through 2012 for the countries covered, concluding that "transparency and trust will become increasingly important currency in the emerging  'green'  marketplace." 
  • Insect repellent products made with  Nepeta cataria should carry a warning to caution people not to use when hiking in areas where Cougars, Lynx, Bobcats or other large cats are present.  All cats (even those big guys) are attracted to catnip, and forest rangers have begun using it to attract Cougars for tagging and research.  All cats will have a physiological reaction to the chemical compound nepetalactone in catnip which has been found to induce a psychosexual response in both male and female cats. One might say that catnip has an aphrodisiac effect, however some cats can be very possessive of their catnip, and some cats have been aggressive after use.  We highly recommend that product manufacturers alert their customers of this potential danger. 
  • As reported by Jennifer Minigh, PhD, in ABC's (American Botanical Society) Herbclip, a recent double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial published in BJOG (British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2008) shows that saffron Crocus sativus L. looks promising for treating PMS (premenstrual syndrome).   Using the dried stigma encapsulated, saffron was effective in treating mild to moderate depression via serotonergic mechanisms.  This is likely the first study of saffron's effects on PMS, with 50 women participating ages 24-50 and comparisons to other studies are therefore probably not possible. 
  • An upcoming Sandalwood Conference to be held in Kununurra, WA  promises to  "Revolutionize the Global Indian Sandalwood Supply."  Rob blogged about this briefly when news of the crop development and establishment of a production plant in Kununurra came out in December.  This news is creating new excitement, as expressed by Georges Ferrando, from Albert Vieille, who says with a processing plant due to be built in Kununurra next year, the region will become a world leader within five years.  "India is number one in supplying sandalwood oil, but I think very, very quickly, Kununurra will become the supplier number one in the world".  The growers are expecting the first harvest in 2014.  The conference will  present comparisons of plantation-grown Santalum album to that grown in the wild, an overview of the international fragrance market, the uses of naturals in fragrance, setting standards for a reliable supply, as well as cover issues of indigenous participation and environmental responsibilities.  In addition to featured presentations, there will be round table discussions and plantation tours.

Posted by Marcia on April 4, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Events, Notes and News, Oil Crops, Research, Safety/Toxicity, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack