Product Safety

Our customers and consumers can be certain that our products are safe when used as intended.

It is both our obligation and our commitment to ensure that our products are safe for people and the environment. We consider this to be an essential part of operating our business in an ethically and legally appropriate manner, which is crucial to fostering 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 could be exposed to this substance. 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 decided that these will not be used at all for certain applications. For other substances we have introduced strict internal constraints and restrictions and by doing so, we go beyond 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 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, through to detailed instructions and warnings or 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 products as part of our monitoring. Scientists and the general public often take different views regarding the risks that substances might pose. There are 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 that this is in fact essential to ensure that safety assessments of ingredients 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.

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 with particular care. If this gives rise to reservations about product safety, and if the scientific data and findings cannot dispel these doubts, we either avoid using a substance altogether or restrict its use so that it still meets our stringent safety criteria. 

Continuous monitoring of our products on the market is a key element of product safety. Our product developers and product safety experts routinely incorporate the insights we gain from this process into their assessments. For example, for our monitoring we apply the so-called Cosmetovigilance, an approach for systematically monitoring cosmetic products after they have been placed on the market.

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 us for advice by calling our service hotlines.