To ensure excellent quality and product safety, Henkel already verifies during the research and development phases that there will be no risks associated with its products during their manufacture, use or disposal. The starting point for this process is ensuring compliance with statutory regulations, and with Henkel standards which go beyond these. Each new product and process is then subjected to a risk assessment. This is the basis for necessary precautionary measures and is updated as soon as new scientific data are available.
Product safety: Implementation at Henkel
In assessing the safety of a product, the first step is to determine whether its ingredients could pose a hazard to people or the environment. Does a substance have harmful effects? Is it corrosive or toxic, for example? If so, 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. In most cases, a harmful effect will only occur when the quantity and concentration of the substance reach a certain level. The results of these two steps have to be combined to arrive at a comprehensive risk assessment. Only then is it possible to determine whether a product is safe for its intended use. A simple example is acetic acid, which we use in diluted form on our food, but can cause serious harm in high concentrations.
Henkel ´s product safety experts check whether substances are fundamentally suitable for use in the kind of product and application envisaged. The use of substances with certain dangerous properties is precluded for specific applications from the very start. Substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or could endanger reproductive capability may not be used in consumer products. Other substances are subject to strict conditions and constraints imposed by Henkel itself.
The formulated product is then assessed again. The properties of the individual ingredients, their concentrations in the product, and the conditions under which the product is to be used are evaluated.
Products that will come into contact with human skin are also tested dermatologically. Depending on whether the product is intended for consumers or for industrial use by trained personnel, Henkel optimizes the necessary precautionary and protective measures. These may range from the design of the packaging to detailed instructions for use or the replacement of certain ingredients by more suitable substitutes.
Henkel ´s products are monitored continuously in the market by product developers and product safety experts, whose findings are channeled into the product assessment process. Consumer contacts are a particularly valuable source of information. New scientific findings are also taken into consideration.
Precautionary and protective measures can thus be modified immediately, whenever this should prove necessary.
The safety of the chemical ingredients in products is a recurring subject of controversy. The public perception of the risks associated with certain substances often differs from the assessments of scientists. There are many reasons for this. The potential hazard that a substance might pose to people and the environment is frequently equated with a direct risk, without taking into account the actual level of exposure to the substance. Moreover, the perception of risks depends to a large extent on a society ´s values and the feelings of the individual. Such controversies always prompt Henkel to carry out assessments with particular diligence. Raw materials are thus examined on the basis of their specific properties and the intended use of the product.
Safe Products, backed up by good advice
If, despite appropriately designed packaging and detailed instructions, products are used incorrectly or mishaps occur, Henkel customers and consumers can always contact its advice services. At Henkel’s Düsseldorf headquarters these also include a special hotline for emergencies. A team of doctors and toxicologists is available around the clock to take emergency calls and provide advice and online assistance.
Henkel’s customers and consumers are not the only ones to benefit from these services. By analysing the questions received and by monitoring its products in the market, the Company can identify potential problems at an early stage and channel the knowledge gained into its product development.