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.
- Scientists and the general public often take different views regarding the risks that chemical substances might pose. There are many reasons for this.
- 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.
Extensive testing and evaluation
Henkel makes great efforts to ensure the safety of our products for people and the environment. We consider this to be an essential part of operating our business in an ethically and legally appropriate manner and an important element of building and maintaining trust in our products. Our raw materials and finished products are therefore subjected to extensive testing and evaluation prior to being launched on the market. The tests and evaluations are based on recognized scientific methods resulting in a high level of safety in the production, application and disposal of our products. In addition to that, we conduct safety assessments for new products and technologies. Such assessments form the basis for determining the necessary precautionary measures, which we update as necessary when new scientific data become available. Around the world, we have expert teams from product development and product safety who are engaged in these strict tests and evaluations.
For product safety assessments, the experts first investigate whether the ingredients of a product might pose a hazard to human health or the environment. The next step is to analyze the exposure, i.e. to what extent people or the environment will be exposed to these substances. This analysis is important as in most cases a harmful effect will only occur after exposure to a certain quantity and concentration of a particular substance. The results of these two evaluation steps are then combined in an overall 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 because it can cause serious harm in high concentrations due to its caustic properties. When used as vinegar in diluted form in our food, however, it does not pose a risk.
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.
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.
Another important element of product safety is continuous monitoring of our products in the market. Our product developers and product safety experts regularly channel the insights gained in this way into their evaluations.
In selecting and using ingredients we also follow controversial discussions in the general public about the safety of chemical ingredients in consumer 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 often do not take such differentiation into account.
One current controversy regarding ingredients centers around endocrine (hormone-like) effects of ingredients. Although an endocrine-active substance can have hormone-like effects, this does not necessarily entail negative effects on human health. This is demonstrated by many ingredients in foods, such as soy products or beer, which show weak endocrine activity but do not produce any adverse effects. According to the latest scientific knowledge, the use of substances which may have weak endocrine action potential in, for example, cosmetic products does not constitute risk to the health of consumers.
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.
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.