Essential oils: bureaucracy wins over scienceBY ANTONIO PICASSO

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The “very ideological but not very realistic” European green wave is heavily impacting entire production chains in our country and beyond, including not only the automotive and packaging industries but also the essential oils industry.

When talking about the European ecological transition, it is easy to think of the devil who makes the pots but not the lids. The latest confirmation of this comes from observing the contradictions contained in the “Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability” (Css), a regulatory framework that falls under the Green Deal and provides for the elimination of toxic substances in consumer products. As with the better-known message of “Zero Emissions,” the intention of Brussels is good, but the practical implementation remains impractical.


The objective is, in fact, to thoroughly examine the chemical substances used by the cosmetics industry to reduce or eliminate those that cause tumors, genetic mutations, effects on the reproductive or endocrine system, or that are persistent and bioaccumulative and those that affect the immune, neurological, or respiratory system, and toxic chemicals for a specific organ. The Css serves as a framework law for the European Union’s Classification, Labeling, and Packaging (Clp), which provides informative labeling on products available to consumers, assessing molecular compounds.

However, without the support of any scientific research, the Clp risks banning products containing essential oils, as they are no longer classified as single substances but as chemical aggregates.


Essential oils of rose, bergamot, lavender, or Argan, although derived from natural sources such as plants, trees, and shrubs, contain chemical molecules that, according to the EU, should be labeled as “hazardous,” prohibiting or conditioning the entire product.

The classification of health hazardous products – like cigarettes – would be attributed because a chemical element is dangerous as such, but not following a scientific detection carried out on a sample of consumers. What is missing is the famousclinically tested,” which is the conclusion of all cosmetic and pharmaceutical advertisements, necessary and decisive for determining whether a product is good or harmful.


It is bureaucracy that wins over science but also over the economy. The essential oils industry represents a strategic asset for the European cosmetics industry. We are talking about a turnover of 2 billion euros recorded in 2019, but which is expected to double to 4 billion in 2026, dominated by France and Italy, for production volumes and employees. But above all, it involves major players in the sector, such as Chanel, L’Oreal, and L’Occitane – to name the most famous brands – as well as small producers. Bergamot in Calabria, lavender in Provence, rose oil in Romania, and lemon oil in Spain are an essential source of competitiveness for family businesses in individual territories. And while major companies can always count on a Plan B – that is, returning to synthetic components, derived from oil, despite the European green policies – SMEs would be literally deprived of their production source.


It is then reasonable to wonder about the surprising silence of fashion houses, between France and Italy, so sensitive to sustainability and consumer needs, increasingly attentive that the product is natural, clinically tested, and not of synthetic origin. And it is especially easy to compare it to other production chains – from automotive to packaging – also victims of the green wave, very ideological but not very realistic, that is hitting Europe. And its industry.

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