29 settembre 2009

IFRA and its influence on today's (and tomorrow's) fragrances 1/3

Bodies controlling the safety of perfumery items in Europe are two: European Union and IFRA (International Fragrance Association).

The EU has regulated the use of 26 raw materials deemed as allergens, through Directive 76/768/ECC. The Directive contains the list of all 26 allergens which can be used safely in perfumes only within limits defined by the Directive. In case of higher concentration, which could trigger skin problems, the presence of the allergenic raw material must, by law, be highlighted on the packaging. For this reason, on some perfume boxes you can read "Ingredients: limonene, linalool, etc..." It's a way to indicate that these materials are used in a higher concentration than that prescribed by law, so that those consumers with specific allergies are warned about it.
IFRA is an international organization created and funded by perfumery Companies: both multinational raw material providers like Quest, IFF and the others, and cosmetic and perfume brands like L'Oreal etc. These Companies created IFRA with a twofold purpose: to maintain a documentation regarding cases of allergic reactions to perfumes, and analyze raw materials to make sure not to cause allergic reactions. IFRA is conducting tests both on raw materials and on finished perfumes: they test possible effects of photosensitivity, dermal toxicity and allergy. Tests are rather strict and parameters are extremely limiting, just to guarantee businesses they can invest in new products in a totally secure way, using only raw materials that will not elicit prosecution and bad publicity towards the Brand. IFRA periodically publishes the analysis results (known as amendments), indicating which materials are considered safe by a certain concentration, and which have shown, in laboratory tests, the possibility of some reaction. Amendments are available in their website. The list is, to date, a simple indication and still doesn't charge under the law; it doesn't even need to: the funders of IFRA's analysis consists in 90% of the Companies operating in the perufme industry!
This system has promoted in recent years, the disappearance from perfume formulas of sixty ingredients, especially natural ones, and limitation of fifty or so. Among the banned or severely limited materials are some building blocks of perfumery: essential oils of citrus, indicted for their content of citral and limonene (found in the essential oil of bergamot, lemon, sweet orange and part of many other essential oils extracted from flowers), but also birch tar, oakmoss and some synthetic components (linalool, which is found in lavender, geraniol, coumarin, etc.) and recently, jasmine (!). And many of these happen to be among the most valuable and expensive ones, capable of giving exceptional vibration to fragrances, but have the minus of being expensive, and this makes them uneconomical for Companies to use. For those who produce millions of bottles a year, using a cheaper raw material allows to limit the cost of each bottle, ensuring higher profits. (to be continued)

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