Safety as a top priority

Our customers and consumers can be certain that our products are safe when used as intended. All raw materials and finished products are subjected to numerous assessments and tests to ensure a high level of safety during production, use and disposal. This is based on ensuring compliance with legal regulations and farther reaching Henkel standards.

Our product developers and experts for product safety assess ingredients according to the latest scientific findings and concrete safety data. They continuously track Henkel products on the market and incorporate the insights gained into the assessments. In addition to considering the basic hazard potential of a substance, our safety assessments focus especially on the actual concentration in the specific formulation and the conditions of use. The safety of chemical ingredients in products is frequently the subject of heated public debates. These always give Henkel cause to review the assessments with particular care. The use of substances with certain dangerous properties is precluded for specific applications from the very start. In other cases, we work to further improve health compatibility by developing alternative ingredients.

 

Implementation within the company

Regular audits are carried out to verify compliance with corporate product safety requirements and procedures. The business sectors are responsible for the implementation of product safety.

 

Graph Implementation within the Company

Identifying hazards – Assessing risks

In assessing the safety of a product, the first step our experts take is to determine whether its ingredients could pose a hazard to people or the environment. An exposure analysis is carried out in a second step to clarify the extent to which people and the environment could be exposed to this substance. This analysis is important as, in most cases, a harmful effect will only occur when the quantity and concentration of a questionable substance reach a certain level. The results of these two steps have to be combined to arrive at a comprehensive risk assessment. It is only by considering this overall picture that our experts can make reliable statements about whether a product will be safe under use conditions. A simple example is acetic acid, which represents a potential hazard as it can cause serious harm in high concentrations due to its caustic properties. When used in diluted form in our food, however, it does not pose a risk.

Graph risks

Evaluation of the substances used

Regarding substances with certain dangerous properties we have defined that these shall not be used at all for specific applications. For other substances we have introduced strict internal constraints and restrictions and by doing so, we often exceed legal requirements. In other cases, we work to further improve health compatibility by developing alternative ingredients. One example of this is the switch from solvent-based to water-based formulations for our consumer and contact adhesives.

Assessment of the products

Once they have evaluated all the individual ingredients, our experts perform a further safety assessment focusing on the overall formulation of a product. This looks at the properties of the individual constituents, their concentrations in the product and the conditions under which the product will be used. Products intended for use on the human body are additionally evaluated dermatologically. The results of these evaluations and assessments then form the basis for defining the required precautionary and protective measures for safe use of the product. These measures are specifically adapted as appropriate, taking account of whether the product is to be used by consumers or industrial professionals, and can range from package design features, detailed instructions and warnings to restrictions regarding use.

Continuous monitoring

Another important element of product safety is continuous monitoring of our products in the market. Our product developers and product safety experts channel the insights gained in this way into their evaluations.

Controversially discussed ingredients

In selecting and using ingredients we also follow controversial discussions in the general public about the safety of chemical ingredients in products. We frequently note that scientists and the general public take different views regarding the risks that substances might pose. The reasons for this are manifold. Particularly often we see that a direct link is made between the potential hazard a substance may have for humans or the environment and the ensuing risk without taking into account the extent to which humans or the environment are actually exposed to that substance. It is our view that a differentiation must be made between hazard and risk and is in fact essential to ensure that safety assessments of ingredients will reflect reality. For this reason, Henkel does not concur with generalized substance lists that are designed to demand the abandonment of substances under controversial discussion, as such lists mostly do not take such differentiation into account.

Irrespective of our differentiating approach, we generally consider that any discussion regarding ingredients is sufficient reason to critically review the scientific basis underlying our assessments. If there are serious reservations about the continued validity of the scientific data and findings regarding product safety, we either avoid using a substance altogether or restrict its use so that it meets our stringent safety criteria.

Well advised

If customers and consumers still have questions about a product or have used it incorrectly despite the package design and detailed instructions for use, they can contact Henkel for advice by calling our service hotlines.

Innovation and alternative test methods

Henkel has been carrying out successful research since the early 1980s to develop new methods for testing raw materials and products for their biological effect and compatibility. Advanced molecular biological methods are used to thoroughly investigate aspects such as the effect of raw materials on human skin cells so that optimized formulations can be created. This is one of the basic prerequisites for successful product innovations.

One of our primary goals is to be able to answer questions about the safety of our products and the ingredients we use exclusively without animal testing. As a matter of principle, Henkel only uses animal testing if this is stipulated by legal regulations and there are no accepted alternative test methods available for obtaining the necessary safety data.

Questions regarding the skin compatibility of ingredients are now also investigated with the help of in vitro tests. In vitro tests, such as the skin model (technical name: epidermis model) have been developed by Henkel over the past decades in collaboration with external partners and submitted for acceptance as alternatives to animal testing to the “European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing“ (EURL ECVAM). Official acceptance is an essential prerequisite for global use of this method, which Henkel does not just wish to utilize itself, but also to make accessible to others.

Henkel plans to make the results of this research freely accessible in an open source model and to make the method available free of charge to biologists and lab technicians, for instance, in trade journals. With this decision, Henkel is taking an important step toward global use of alternative test methods. Scientists at Henkel are currently working with Fraunhofer researchers to make it possible to not only produce the skin model, which is as large as a 1-cent coin, individually in the laboratory but also in machines in the future. The process will be more efficient and allow larger quantities to be produced.

Photo experiment

Developed by Henkel, the full thickness skin model pictured here can be used to systematically assess the effects of substanes on the skin tissue.

Last updated: March 6, 2013