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March 17, 2010

Is excessive regulation destroying the perfumery art?

imageI (Tony Burfield) gave a talk entitled “Is excessive regulation destroying the perfumery art?” at the British Society of Perfumers Safety Symposium, 11th March 2010, held at the Belfry Hotel near Cambridge, UK; a Power Point version of the talk can be downloaded at http://www.cropwatch.org/Tony Burfield's talk to BPS final.ppt ). In contrast to the other speakers, who mainly advised on how to conform to the minutiae of existing REACH requirements, the new Classification, Labeling & Packaging (CLP) of substances & mixtures regulations, and other EU measures (as well as adherence to the IFRA CoP), I attempted to outline the disproportionate nature of EU Cosmetics legislation, and its attempts to create an artificial world of synthetic based products which would be safer than nature itself. I asked why the aroma industry had been so timid in the face of the burgeoning legislation which would all but destroy it, and why it couldn't find the time to challenge much of the bad science behind some of the more over-precautionary measures.

In a previous feature "Perfumers and the 40th IFRA Amendment" (Burfield 2007) first put out on Basenotes in Feb 2007, I had noted the declining importance & influence of the Professional Perfumer, no longer the courageous and opinionated artists, and rarely seen any more as company board members. Their decline in industrial status, often to a level slightly under that of the Regulatory Affairs Assistant, is even more evident now that previously. Yet I was informed one by a well-known perfumer working for one of the major fragrance corporates, that the new generation of software-using perfumers have no problem in conforming to the avalanche of new regulations. I interpret this as referring to a younger generation who have probably never smelled a genuine ylang-ylang oil, or an unadulterated sandalwood oil East Indian (as they are invariably ‘extended’ at source), and have a sparse knowledge or experience of the massive range of exotic natural aromatic materials. I further contend that they may well spend most of their working time tinkering with formulae, working on substitutions for contra-indicated ingredients such as cyclamen aldehyde, lyral, lilial or polycyclic musks, or lately even key materials like linalol (current shortage of this important ingredient apparently due to fire in a major producing facility in China).

Where do we go from here? With the impact of REACH set to remove a huge number of ingredients (both synthetic and natural) from the perfumers palette, and with over-exploitation continuing to endanger the future availability many natural aromatic materials, it is hard to see much future for the perfumery art in Europe, unless marketeering hype can induce consumers to buy products only suitable for consumers with unsophisticated tastes & perceptions. As previously mentioned, many consumers are noticing the increasing evidence of 'chemical' notes creeping into fragrances, and some have used fairly negative odour descriptors to Cropwatch about individual perfumes (out of the multitude of today's short-lived fragrance launches) which they perceive as smelling like 'cough candy', 'fly spray' or 'drain-cleaner'. I contend that the time is right for the centre of creativity, and progress in the art-of-the possible in fragrance design to move away from the West with its over-cautious ingredient restrictions. The toxicologists, who now seem to call the shots in this profession, have helped ruin the aroma industry, yet can only point to a vanishingly small number of instances where any alleged adverse consumer effects from fragrances have manifested as clear cut clinical cases. The future of perfumery surely lies outside the West, in countries which have more proportionate and should we say, a less hysterical approach to cosmetics health & safety regulation.

Tony Burfield
for Cropwatch.

Posted by Tony Burfield on March 17, 2010 in Perfumery, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink


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This issue has been simmering for close to 25 years, exacerbated by the vocal
minority with pseudo science education - greenies.

I repeatedly warned few of these vocal members, that nature is made of
CHEMICALS, yes CHEMICALS, and if they harped on SYNTHETICS (which ARE CHEMICALS) they would destroy natural products, as these hard to control.

Why? Simple. Nature is variable, synthetics are not (this could be argued, but
space is limited). Hence, the synthetics. When the feed stock is controlled, and the product clinically tested, it now becomes a 'de facto - safe' replacement - guaranteed lot to lot.

Problem: Perfumers used 5-20 synthetics, 10-50 nature identical synthetics and 5-10 naturals. The resulting fragrance was a pointillist or orchestral accord.

The new fragrances are Picasso's, with broad strokes of 20-80 ingredients & 2-5 bases. The naturals (each with 100's or chemicals) softened and made the brief blend a full canvas or philharmonic orchestral accord, BUT the new regulated fragrances are heavy metal accords of limited colors and musicians.

Too much to say in too little space. The end is upon us. Thank you, the vocal minority - you have killed yourself and the creative perfumers.

IT IS NOT THE FAULT of the Fragrance Industry. The Industry wants to use naturals and as many ingredients for creative purpose. The same will soon happen to herbal preparations and health supplements.

Posted by: Parfumeur 1 | Oct 30, 2010 6:22:35 PM

Parfumeur 1 => parfumeur (at) hushmail (dot) com

Posted by: Parfumeur 1 | Oct 30, 2010 6:27:35 PM

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