Ask a RIFM Scientist

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How does RIFM avoid testing on animals to evaluate photosafety?

Chaitra Deodhar, PhD

As part of its safety assessment program, the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) evaluates the potential of fragrance ingredients to cause photoirritation or photoallergenicity. In most cases, ultraviolet/visible (UV/Vis) spectra analysis can determine if a fragrance ingredient poses a concern for photosafety. In fact, 94% of fragrance ingredients do not absorb UV rays and will not cause a photoirritation or photoallergenicity reaction.

In some rare cases, UV/Vis analysis or other study data may be unavailable, and RIFM would need to perform tests to determine the photoirritating potential of these ingredients. However, RIFM can use the read-across approach to evaluate photosafety and avoid unnecessary and time-consuming human or animal tests. Read-across is an internationally recognized alternative to animal testing. Scientists use the toxicity data available on a structurally analogous chemical to predict the toxicological profile of the target chemical for which little to no data exists.

When evaluating photosafety, RIFM’s expert chemists and the Expert Panel for Fragrance Safety select structurally analogous substances (i.e., “read-across analogs”) and compare chromophore(s) (i.e., the part of a chemical that is responsible for absorbing UV light) and substituents on the molecule and the effect of substituents on the UV/Vis absorbance. Using toxicity data from a read-across analog to predict the potential toxicity of a data-poor fragrance ingredient, RIFM saves time (up to 6 months for UV testing and 1-2 years for higher tier testing per material), money, and animal lives. Furthermore, this approach is indispensable for evaluating the photosafety of discrete ingredients and natural complex substances (NCS). Testing an NCS in in vitro or in chemico assays can present a significant challenge, as these natural oils are not readily soluble in aqueous solutions, a necessary condition for these assays. At the same time, an individual component-based testing approach for safety evaluation faces a significant challenge as the given NCS may have up to 100 components.

Senior Associate Scientist Chaitra Deodhar, PhD, supports RIFM’s Photoirritation/Photoallergenicity Research and Safety Assessment programs.