I don't think IFRA perfume regulations address allergens in the air


The other day I came across a blog entry on Nathan Branch's site, and despite trying to register and log in to post a comment, I couldn't. I wrote Nathan, haven't heard back yet, so I just want to put this out there because I feel there was such a misunderstanding of IFRA regulations a correction was needed.

Seems Nathan received a lot of bottles of perfume to photograph for Abigail Levin's The Posh Peasant website. As he unpacked the box, his BF, in the next room, began to have respiratory distress. This continued until the bottles were packed back in the box and sealed. 

Here is what I tried to post on the blog:

Interesting theory, however, incorrect.

IFRA regs cover possible skin-related issues (including oral preparations, such as mouthwash), not the respiratory system.  They also drift into the murky world of potential systemic problems, hence the completely incorrect stance against coumarinic raw materials.

http://www.ifraorg.org/files/documentspublished/1/en-us/GD/22156_GD_2009_12_03_IFRA_Code_of_Practice_-_Body_&_8_Appendices_-_Dec_2006.pdf There are some bits in here about aerosols, but that has to do with room sprays, etc.

Mostly, it addresses leave-on and wash-off levels. Nary a word about sneezing or coughing, or running noses, reactions I sometimes have and many others have documented regarding being in the sillage of a modern perfume. The oakmoss that is stated to be (perhaps) the culprit has absolutely no history of causing respiratory problems: it is 100% in the skin allergen category.

When it is stated that perhaps the "new" IFRA-ready formulations are perhaps better because the BF never had a negative response to them, I beg to differ. I never had a problem with perfumes until the mid 80's when harsh synthetics were introduced to perfumes. They're the cause of the majority of complaints against "modern" perfumes. Too much diffusiveness, too harsh, too much sillage, too much substantivity.

Your BF's reaction may have been related to something else entirely. Perhaps one particular ingredient, e.g., rose, if he's allergic to rose, caused the problem.

The photos, however, are beautiful, so it's too bad the association of an allergy attack are melded with them.


  1. Very interesting - it could even have been the packing materials that caused the respiratory issues. I work with floral designs, and similar materials such as raffia, various wood products and treated paper that are used in floral design and crafts can often be found as packaging materials for cushioning purposes. Every once in a while I receive a package that has something in it that's dusty or that gives off some sort of odor, or "sheds" material when you unpack it, and sometimes it make me sneeze too, no matter what was in the box as far as product goes; not just perfume.

    We can't protect ourselves from everything, or control everything in our environment. I do find it ironic that IFRA exists to "protect" the public from any number of natural substances, but I can walk in to any store and buy tobacco, alcohol, Tylenol, pesticides, gunpowder, ammunition and spray paint, and even all at the same time if I go to the right store, and that's just fine with our existing regulatory system. As far as IFRA goes, I always say, follow the money and you will find the real reason behind all the needless bans.

  2. I, too, feel dreadful regarding Nathan's BF's unfortunate occurrence...

    It must have been terrifying.

    Trying to isolate the allergen is more complex than it appears initially.

    I suspect Donna's pinpointed the regulation priorities, alas.

  3. Hi Flora:

    What a great observation! I never would have thought of the packing materials themselves. I know some people who are allergic to newsprint from newspapers, so yes, triggers can exist anywhere.

    I love a good rant about all the stuff that's on the shelves that can do so much more harm that perfume - search the blog for my "perfume versus peanuts" post. Or just search peanuts.

    Many echo your sentiment about the money trail and IFRA!

  4. Ida, so true - you unpack something you have to work on, and you better half starts to have an allergic reaction!

    Perhaps that particular allergen will never be known, but I feel I have to defend the "older" scents because I have enough years on me that I know they did NOT cause allergic responses decades ago, and they don't know. Respiratory or skin.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Boxgasm - for perfumers, aromatherapists, bath and body manufacturers, chandlers. What the heck is a boxgasm? Well, read below and you may have one.

Natural Perfumers Guild member Allured Business Media offering 20% off books

Ask the Perfumer Sunday Oct 21, 2012