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Saturday December 3rd, 2022
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Between false positives and contradictory studies: the reality on the allergic risk of Essential Oils

For 10 years, the media have widely reported on the potentially allergenic properties of Essential Oils (EO). While the draft revisions of European regulations, particularly on chemical substances and cosmetics, intend to revisit this subject, it is necessary to take into account the latest advances in research:

  1. taken as a whole, thes HE are safe
  2. allergenic risks are poorly understood

Thus, the HE Consortium calls on regulatory authorities to reconsider their position. The current framework is no longer appropriate, it disproportionately impacts a sector that is a source of jobs, know-how and agroecological transition.

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The safety of HE

The reality and acuteness of the allergic risk of Essential Oils is based on studies that are often contradictory and systematically biased statistically since the clinical data are maximalizing vis-à-vis the general population.

For example, a study of 62,354 patients conducted between 2009 and 2014 by the IVDK (Information Network of Departments of Dermatology) (Germany, Switzerland, Austria) and the US/Canadian North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) showed an extremely low positive reaction rate (0.3%) for lavender EO and tea tree EO.

Thus, what is often identified as an allergy turns out to be in the vast majority of cases a simple irritation.

Allergy risks poorly understood

In July 2021, the OECD (reference body for the validation of toxicological tests) warned that the LLNA test produces false positives in its application to HE constituents. As a result, in the list of 26 allergens for mandatory labelling on cosmetic products, 5 are no longer considered allergenic according to the OECD[3] (alpha-isomethyl ionone, benzyl benzoate, citronellol, limonene, linalool).

These errors of assessment often result from confusion between products and their oxidized versions. Today all scientific bodies have accepted that the allergenic nature of EO is mainly provided by the oxidation of the constituents of EO. The oxidation conditions are special and do not occur under normal storage conditions.

In addition, some isolated components may have side effects that disappear when they are naturally present in a total essential oil. This is the case, for example, of citral whose effects are not comparable if tested alone or in lemongrass essential oil, where it becomes harmless in equivalent concentrations.

HE Consortium Recommendations

  1. Evaluate the essential oil as a whole, rather than making assumptions based on its isolated constituents.
  1. Reconsider the regulations in the light of the latest scientific data, at least remove the obligation to indicate "May cause a skin allergy" on the 5 components that are no longer considered allergenic.
  2. Reminder of good he conservation practices: tightly closed and protected from light.

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