Ask a RIFM Scientist

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Headshot of Anne Marie Api

Are RIFM Safety Assessments risk- or hazard-based?

Anne Marie Api, PhD

The short answer is that RIFM Fragrance Ingredient Safety Assessments are both risk- and hazard-based. But it’s essential to understand the distinction between the two concepts. For many people, hazard, or the potential to cause harm, is often confused with risk, or the likelihood of causing harm.

Why is the distinction so important? Because knowing that a substance is a hazard is not enough to ensure safe consumption. Scientists need to understand a substance’s risks.

For instance, water and oxygen, substances that human beings could not live without, are both hazards because they each have the potential to cause us harm. Drinking too much water can induce water poisoning and inhaling too much oxygen can result in oxygen toxicity; both are potentially fatal.

The risk, or likelihood, that a potential hazard might cause harm comes down to exposure: specifically, how much, how often, how long, and what area of the body comes in contact with the substance.

RIFM cannot conduct a risk- and hazard-based safety assessment without exposure information; in other words, information about any contact a consumer has with a fragrance ingredient.

RIFM Vice President Anne Marie Api, PhD, oversees RIFM’s Research Program, including collaborative efforts to ensure that robust exposure data inform the Safety Assessment Process.