REACH compliance in essential oil production

What is REACH?

REACH is a regulation from the European Union concerning the production and use of all chemical substances. This regulation established the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) that serves to protect human health and the environment implementing the chemical regulations from the European Union.

Why is essential oil production regulated?

Chemicals are what everything is made of, whether it be natural or artificial. Humans have been exposed to various chemicals regularly throughout history. However, the scientific advancements of the past few centuries have led to novel exposures.

Newer chemicals are introduced at higher concentrations to biological systems that had never encountered them. This is true for essential oil products as well. Some of these exposures harm our wellbeing and that of the earth. That’s why international bodies like the European Union continue to monitor, research, and regulate chemical industries.

What are the constituents of essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrates of hydrophobic liquid derived from plants. Much of the production process of essential oils involves isolating them from the cocktail of chemicals in plant extracts. This can be done by distillation, expression, or solvent extraction. However, essential oils have multiple constituents derived from the original plant extract. Finally, the essential oil products in the markets have additives that enhance nutrition, flavor, and shelf lives.

REACH requirements

Identifying substances

REACH compliance demands proper substance identification. This necessitates characterizing the botanical source, the manufacturing process and the chemical composition of products. The latter involves naming the main constituent and additional constituents, including constituents below 10% in a multi-constituent substance. Information about the safety of the chemicals, potential toxicity, and environmental effects of the constituents in the substance should also be shared.

Determining toxicity

The chemical toxicity must include both acute toxicity and the adverse effects following chronic exposure. This information is clearly shared with the ECHA and with the users. Of particular interest for REACH are substances with constituents that are of high risk. These are chemicals that have persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) properties, and very persistent plus very bioaccumulative (vPvB) properties. We identify such constituents by extensively analyzing the constituents of our essential oils. This information is key to providing a proper environmental hazard assessment. Furthermore, relevant instructions for safe handling by downstream users is necessary for REACH compliance.

Testing essential oils

The ECHA evaluates the testing proposals made by essential oil production facilities. It assesses our compliance with the requirements laid out by REACH regulations. The agency works together with local and central authorities to further assess the chemicals that may pose risks to human or environmental health. Authorizations and restrictions are formulated based on the said assessments.

Demonstrating safety measures

REACH compliance also requires producers to demonstrate that the risks associated with the constituents of essential oils are sufficiently controlled. In certain situations demonstrating that the benefits of the essential oils will outweigh the risk will suffice. Producers are also bound to look for safer alternatives if and when there is a need.

REACH compliance

REACH is considered one of the most complex regulations in the history of the European Union and the strictest regulation of chemical substances in the world. In spite of this, our company has been up to date about REACH and its implications for the essential oil production industry.