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Behind the Label: Fragrance Science and Safety

Making Sense of Scents

Fragrance is used in a variety of everyday products ranging from household and personal care products to fine fragrances, home fragrance, cleaning products, hand soaps, laundry products and air fresheners. In the majority of consumer packaged goods products, fragrance represents less than 1% of the total finished product formulation. However, that small percentage is vitally important to the product's identity, functionality and consumer appeal.

Fragrance can play an important role in cleaning products, observes Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute®. It can make a mundane task more pleasant, particularly when the fragrance is one that has high user appeal. It can also help to reduce our general stress levels. In fact, a significant relationship between positive mood state and health is now emerging. According to Susan Schiffman, M.D., professor of medical psychology at Duke University, "Although the world will continue to become more technological, our biological nature will always be at the core of our lives. A life without olfactory pleasure would be an empty one."

Realizing the beneficial role fragrance plays in our lives and the popularity of fragranced products, it is important to understand the extensive testing and safety standards the fragrance industry requires.

IFRA, the International Fragrance Association, is the official representative body of the fragrance industry worldwide. Its main purpose is to ensure the safety of fragrance materials through a dedicated science program. This focus on fragrance safety helps both the consumer and the environment. Fragrance manufacturer members must subscribe to the IFRA Code of Practice, which applies to the manufacture and handling of all fragrance materials, for all types of applications and contains the comprehensive set of IFRA Standards. Abiding by the IFRA Code of Practice is a prerequisite for all fragrance supplier companies that are members of IFRA (either directly or through national associations). IFRA membership and adherence to their strict Code of Practice, is intended to assure the safe use of fragrance ingredients in products we use on our bodies and in our homes every day.

Additional fragrance science and safety assurance is provided by RIFM. The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, Inc. (RIFM generates, evaluates and distributes scientific data on the safety assessment of fragrance raw materials found in perfumes, cosmetics, shampoos, detergents, air fresheners, candles and other personal and household products. The RIFM Database is the most comprehensive source worldwide of physical-chemical, toxicological and eco-toxicological data, literature and information on safety evaluation associated with known fragrance and flavor materials.

Fragrance science and safety is a primary focus for responsible fragrance manufacturers worldwide. Consumers can depend upon the credibility of scientifically valid data, proven safety perspectives based on years of experience, best research practices that reflect the integrity of the industry; as well as definitive research conducted for decades by independent scientists. RIFM's independent Panel of Experts, internationally known dermatologists, pathologists, toxicologists, reproductive, environmental and respiratory scientists, advises RIFM on its strategic approach, reviews protocols and evaluates all scientific findings. The fragrance industry steadfastly pursues its focus on fragrance safety, while the fragrance ingredients it responsibly produces continue to enhance everyday experiences in our lives.