Concerned that the essential oils in lavender can cause allergic reactions, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) moved to classify the oil a “skin sensitizer” this year. The determination would trigger European Union regulations requiring that soaps, perfumes, and hand lotions containing the oils carry health warnings beginning in 2018. French farmers of the fragrant plant said ECHA’s plan doesn’t pass the smell test because lavender is not a synthetic chemical. ECHA was set up to limit pollution from synthetic, not natural, products. Some Provençal lavender oil distillers threatened to shut down if ECHA didn’t back off. However, other European oil producers, represented by the International Fragrance Association, said they were amenable to the new classification, provided they got some guidelines specific to their sector. Industry groups and ECHA are continuing talks on the new classification.
Credit: Laura K. Scott