Allergen of the Year: Fragrance

Frances J. Storrs


Dermatitis. 2007;18(1):3-7. 

In This Article

Regulation of the Fragrance Industry

The fragrance industry is self-regulated. This is largely accomplished by a close relationship between RIFM and the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and by a spirit of cooperation between RIFM and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

RIFM was founded in 1966 by fragrance raw-material suppliers, compounders, and end-user companies. They wanted research done on ingredients used in fragrances, to ensure the safety of those fragrances.[18] All of the RIFM's scientific efforts are reviewed by an independent expert panel of academic dermatologists, toxicologists, and environmental scientists. The RIFM Expert Panel's conclusions on safe use, based on its critical evaluation of all available safety data and exposure information, form the basis of the IFRA Standards. RIFM, located in New Jersey, has published 1,100 monographs on fragrance ingredients of some 2,800 used in the industry; 80 to 90% of these ingredients are synthetic. The monographs are available to members of the American Contact Dermatitis Society on their "members only" Web site Although this information is not on the RIFM Web site, the monographs and their replacement documents (group summaries and Fragrance Material Reviews) are published in Food and Chemical Toxicology and can also be obtained directly from RIFM (Anne Marie Api, PhD, vice president, Human Health Sciences, RIFM, personal communication, July 2006).

In 1973, IFRA was formed. Registered in Geneva, Switzerland, and with its main operating offices in Brussels, Belgium, IFRA publishes standards for the safe use of fragrance ingredients, based on the outcome of safety evaluations carried out by the RIFM Expert Panel. IFRA has no impact on the content of the standards but is responsible for their distribution and enforcement. The standards are binding for the IFRA membership, which covers the major countries and regions of the world. Eight to ninety percent of the world's fragrances are supplied by IFRA members.[19]

IFRA's Code of Practice currently contains over 100 IFRA Standards for fragrance ingredients; about 40 standards prohibit certain fragrances, and about 65 others put various limitations on their use. This information is available on the IFRA Web site (

The FDA bans about 10 chemicals used in fragrances and does not actively regulate this industry.[6]

In the past, researchers in this area have felt that accessing information from the industry was very difficult. Both RIFM and IFRA are making efforts to be more accessible. In fact, IFRA has indicated that it will help dermatologists identify specific allergens in fragrances they feel are causing ACD in their patients. The IFRA Web site describes how this can be accomplished.


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