Are big changes coming to popular perfumes?
Europe's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety wants to remove some allergens, such as tree moss and oak moss, that are found in fragrances such as Chanel's No.5 and Dior's Miss Dior, Reuters reports. The European Union is mulling the committee's recommendations.
This past June, the committee released a report on fragrance allergens in cosmetic products, which plague Europeans with contact allergies to fragrance. According to the committee, up to 3 percent of Europeans have a contact allergy to fragrances.
Dr. Clifford Bassett, assistant clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center who has no involvement with the committee's research, told CBSNews.com the allergies can result in skin rash, itchiness, eyelid swelling, and eczema in the hands, what's called allergic contact dermatitis.
In 1999, the committee identified 26 fragrance chemicals causing allergies in patients. Since then, they've added 82 more to the list, and some of the chemicals were found to pose a higher risk of affecting those with contact allergies, based on number of reported cases. That led the committee to recommend limiting the chemicals' concentration.
Reuters notes, however, the committee is considering an outright ban of tree moss and oak moss, which are particularly sensitive allergens that provide the "distinctive woody base notes" in the two popular brands.
"All citizens are entitled to the same protection," SCCS Working Group chairman Ian White, from London's St John's Institute of Dermatology, told Reuters.
The perfume industry argues if implemented, the committee's measures would change its signature products and limit what manufacturers can choose from.
"It would be the end of beautiful perfumes if we could not use these ingredients," Francoise Montenay, non-executive chairwoman of Chanel, told Reuters.
"Chanel No 5 has never done any harm to anyone," added Sylvie Jourdet of the French perfumer's society, to The Telegraph. "It is the death of perfume if this continues.
The EU said it is in talks with all parties to assess the impact the committee's recommendations would have on the industry, according to Reuters.
Fragrance allergies affect more than 2 million Americans, according to Bassett.
"Fragrance allergy is on the rise, particularly in women, and it's becoming a bigger and bigger problem," he said. Bassett is also medical director at Allergy & Asthma Care of New York, where he estimates he sees a patient with a contact allergy to fragrance every day.
However, fragrance allergies aren't just caused by perfumes, Bassett notes, with shampoos, lotions and other household products containing fragrances that could trigger reactions.
Also worth noting, the allergies the committee wants to prevent is different from the sneezing, coughing and irritation people might experience when they walk in a department store or by someone heavily perfumed. Bassett says those symptoms are actually allergic-like reactions in people who may be especially sensitive if they have other allergies or asthma.
If you think you have a contact allergy to fragrances, contact an allergist who can provide a patch test to let you know which allergens are causing problems, Bassett recommends. Then the allergist can suggest other products that a person may better tolerate.