When a new product is being developed, the company will decide which ingredients to include in that product. Many ingredients have already been tested and proven to be safe. The Scientific Committee on Cosmetics and Non-Food Products Intended for Consumers (SCCNFP), is an independent committee of scientific experts that advises the European Commission about the safety of ingredients. Their judgement is based on information from lots of sources and from scientific tests, which have been done, some of which may have involved testing on animals. The European Commission must then decide if the law needs changing.
If a new ingredient or a new product is developed, the company will have to carry out a lengthy assessment process. The assessment may involve many different stages and they can be stopped at any stage if it seems that the ingredient or product may be harmful. The safety assessment will usually involve:
- background research about information which already exists
- scientific tests in living cells which can be produced in science labs
- later stage tests on human volunteers where dilutions of the ingredient may be tested on a small area of the body to see if it produces irritation or a reaction.
In Britain, animal testing is no longer carried out on any finished cosmetic products or their ingredients. That includes, fragrances, suncare, oral care, haircare, personal care and decorative cosmetics. This prohibition was extended to all European countries following a change in European law. Many people have strong feelings about the use of animals in testing. Some believe that all animal testing is wrong, some believe it is right for medical purposes and some believe that scientists and doctors should use their own judgement.
However safe a product may be, there are still many ways it can be misused and can present a risk. Many different factors have to be considered to keep things as safe and risk-free as possible. Think about the way companies have tried to reduce these risks, for example, childproof tops on the bottles of dangerous substances and guards for products which become hot, or which spin rapidly. Electric socket covers were found to be more dangerous than leaving the socket uncovered!
Although companies will do all that they can to keep products safe, we have to recognise that some of the responsibility lies with us to make sure we do all we can to think of our own safety.