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Health & Safety

Health & Safety

Although essential oils have an important role to play in the world today and do offer many health benefits, it is important to remember thay they can still be hazardous if not processed, packaged, transported and used correctly.

For general guidelines on the Safe Use of Essential Oils refer to the Disclaimer & Safety link below or download our guide here.

The following section provides a broader range of information on the health and safety considerations required when handling, processing, transporting and using essential oils within the trade or in retail.


Global Harmonised Standard (GHS)

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is an internationally agreed-upon system, created by the United Nations. It was designed to replace the various classification and labelling standards used in different countries by using consistent criteria on a global level. It supersedes the previous classification systems of the European Union and United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

GHS has introduced new 'common' hazard symbols across the globe. Here are the symbols used within the GHS.

724px-GHS-pictogram-acid.svg724px-GHS-pictogram-bottle.svg724px-GHS-pictogram-exclam.svg724px-GHS-pictogram-explos.svg724px-GHS-pictogram-flamme.svg724px-GHS-pictogram-rondflam.svg724px-GHS-pictogram-silhouette.svg724px-GHS-pictogram-skull.svgGHS-pictogram-pollu.svg

Download our GHS Labelling Guide for more information here

For further information refer to the GHS website here.


Flammability

Certain essential oils are classified as Class 3 Flammable Liquids and therefore require additional controls for transportation by air, land and sea. Such oils include:

  • Tea Tree
  • Citrus Oil such as Lemon, Grapefruit, Bergamot, Orange
  • Rosemary
  • Eucalyptus

Flammability of essential oils can be determined from reference to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)


Handling

Exposure to certain essential oils may cause contact dermatitis. Essential oils can be aggressive toward rubbers and plastics, so care must be taken in choosing the correct handling equipment. Glass syringes are often used, but have coarse volumetric graduations.

Chemistry syringes are ideal, as they resist essential oils, are long enough to enter deep vessels, and have fine graduations, facilitating quality control. Unlike traditional pipettes, which have difficulty handling viscous fluids, the chemistry syringe has a seal and piston arrangement which slides inside the pipette, wiping the essential oil off the pipette wall.

Contact with undiluted essential oils on the skin should be avoided. Suitable gloves should be used unless an alternative method is available to avoid handling the oils/bottles at all - such as a bottling machine.


Ingestion

Essential oils are used extensively as flavouring agents in foods, beverages, and confectioneries. The use of essential oils in this manner follows strict Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and flavouring standards.  

Pharmacopoeia standards for medicinal oils should be followed at all times.

Some oils can be toxic to some domestic animals, cats in particular.

The internal use of essential oils can pose hazards to pregnant women, as some can be abortifacients in dose rates of as low as 0.5–10 ml, and thus should not be used during pregnancy.


Allergic Reactions

Certain essential oils are classified as flammable (Class 3) under the Chemical Labelling and Packagi


Flammability

Certain essential oils are classified as flammable (Class 3) under the Chemical Labelling and Packaging Regulations. To this end they are required to carry certain


Pesticide Residues

Some concern has been expressed in terms of pesticide residues in essential oils, particularly when used for therapeutic purposes. For this reason, many practitioners of aromatherapy prefer to buy organically certified essential oils.

Some peace of mind should be taken that if pesticides were to be present they would be in trace quantities. The fact that essential oils are themselves used in tiny quantities, often diluted to 1% strength in a suitable carrier oil should provide some comfort to the user (and receiver) that the risks are extremely low.

Concern about pesticide residues in food essential oils, such as mint or orange oils, the proper criterion is not solely whether the material is organically produced, but whether it meets the government standards based on actual analysis of its pesticide content. In this way, the controls are far more rigorous to prevent pesticides entering the food chain above agreed limits.


Toxicology

The following table lists the LD50 (or median) lethal dose for common oils; this is the dose required to kill half the members of a tested animal population. LD50 is intended as a guideline only, and reported values can vary widely due to differences in tested species and testing conditions.

Common Name

Oral LD50

Dermal LD50

Notes

Cassia

2.80 g/kg

0.32 g/kg

 

Cedarwood

>5 g/kg

>5 g/kg

 

Frankincense

>2 g/kg

>2 g/kg

Boswellia sacra

Frankincense

>5 g/kg

>5 g/kg

Boswellia carterii

Hot oil

3.80 g/kg

>5 g/kg

Cinnamomum camphora, oil extracted from leaves

Indian frankincense

>2 g/kg

>2 g/kg

Boswellia serrata

Lemon myrtle

2.43 g/kg

2.25 g/kg

 

Neem

14 g/kg

>2 g/kg

 

Roman chamomile

>5 g/kg

>5 g/kg

 

White camphor

>5 g/kg

>5 g/kg

Cinnamomum camphora, extracted from leaves

Yellow camphor

3.73 g/kg

>5 g/kg

Cinnamomum camphora, extracted from bark

Ylang-ylang

>5 g/kg

>5 g/kg

 

Further information relating to toxicology for other essential oils can be found by refering to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or through other reference sources freely available online.