Safety of Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) in Perfumes

Diethyl phthalate colorless transparent oily liquid. In perfumery, diethyl phthalate is used as a fixative at a concentration of 0.1% to 0.5% of the perfume used.

IFRA (International Federation of Perfumery) Statement on Diethyl Phthalate (DEP)

Recent misleading reports about the use of phthalates as a perfume ingredient have sparked many debates about the safety of perfume. Not all phthalates have safety concerns. Diethyl phthalate (DEP), which is used in perfume, is safe for human health and the environment. The perfume industry is here to clearly inform consumers that it is completely safe to use fragrance products containing diethyl phthalate (DEP). The term “phthalate” is a generic term for a series of compounds with different chemical structures. Undifferentiated reports of phthalate toxicity have confused the public’s correct perception of the potential safety of these compounds, when in fact only a few specific species within this family of compounds have potential safety concerns. Currently, most attention is being paid to the safety of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). However, both substances are banned for use in cosmetics in Europe. Globally, they have never been used as important ingredients in perfumery, and in fact their use in perfumery is currently zero.

As many examples show, generalized reports about risks and hazards often mislead the public and create unsubstantiated fears. For example, no one would argue that all berries or mushrooms are unsafe, but some specific species have been found to be toxic under certain conditions.

Diethyl phthalate (DEP), which has been used in perfumes, does not have the same safety concerns as DBP and DEHP. Recently, leading experts and scientific teams in the United States and Europe are re-testing the safety of diethyl phthalate (DEP). All members of the European Consumer Product Commission and a panel of experts from the U.S. Cosmetic Ingredient Testing Service (CIR) have unanimously reaffirmed that diethyl phthalate (DEP) is safe for use in cosmetics. Furthermore, the amount of diethyl phthalate (DEP) currently used in consumer products is very small. While some reports continue to question the term “phthalates,” it is important to define the specific chemical of concern and the scientific legitimacy of the data. The scientific authority of the data from some studies remains questionable. For example, a recent study reporting a potential relationship between phthalates and male reproductive signs is contradictory. Furthermore, since diethyl phthalate (DEP) has not been shown to have potential reproductive hazards, it is incorrect to assume that DEP is as harmful as other phthalates such as DBP and DEHP. Diethyl phthalate (DEP) does not currently show a safety concern in perfume use.

Safety has always been a major concern for the perfume industry, and new scientific data is always being evaluated to ensure that perfumes are produced to the highest standards. The Research Institute for Perfume Ingredients (RIFM) provides continuous data on the evaluation of all new ingredients through independent evaluations by a panel of experts, REXPAN. All REXPAN members are internationally renowned scientists independent of the perfume industry.

From the IFRA (International Federation of Perfumery) statement on Diethyl Phthalate (DEP).

China Flavor, Fragrance and Cosmetic Industry Association
June 13, 2011

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