A few weeks ago, someone asked a question about why I was wearing a lab coat, nitrile gloves, a hair cover, mask, and goggles. Essential Oils, Gloves, Masks, Goggles, and More Without Giggles - Say what?
There are two really good reasons for this. One is to maintain “Current Good Manufacturing Practice” or cGMP regulations enforced by the US FDA. The other is to protect myself from accidental overexposure and prevent sensitization.
What is Personal Protective Equipment and Why Should the Home User Want to Use it?
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a thing and very necessary for even the home user. For handling essential oils and other potent aromatic products, PPE includes nitrile gloves, goggles, a mask, and a lab coat or some other item that fully covers the arms and outer clothing.
The first reason has to do with keeping “you” out of the items you are making. Especially if you are making things as gifts! No one wants to spend time making a handmade gift for someone to find out the person gifted found human/pet hair or fingernail polish in the gift. (ACK!)
The second reason is that while essential oils are natural, they are still very potent. With their potency comes a small amount of risk for every individual using them. The average person may not have the same risk in getting a drop here or there from using essential oils on their skin undiluted. BUT, over time even the average person can develop an allergenic reaction that leads to sensitization2.
The third reason is that not every essential oil carries the same risk for irritation or allergic responses. Some have a significantly higher risk depending on the individual, sun exposure, etc.
And the most important reason…. Accidents happen. Especially if the orifice reducer is not inserted properly, or the bottle you are working out of falls over, or the pipette explodes in your hand3, etc. There are a number of things that can go horribly wrong and no one wants to be on the wrong end of the stick when things go south.
My Accident with Essential Oils
With all of the reasons above being very important to essential oil companies and practitioners, even home users need to consider using PPE. If the above reasons don’t compel you to consider using at least gloves and goggles, let me share my own experience recently that is a PERFECT example of why and how accidental over exposure might happen.
After a full day that started at 5am for my last Sunday event in April, I ventured into the pouring station to fill a few orders around 5pm. Normally, I can get through everything without any concerns but that night left me thanking my lucky stars for my PPE.
You see, I was down to my last few mls of Anxiety Aid and needed to make a new master blend to pour from in order to fulfill a few of the orders. The Anxiety Aid blend contains Petitgrain Bigarade, Sweet Orange, Sandalwood, and Ylang-ylang. Once I had completed making the master blend, I began transferring the blend from the graduated cylinder into my stock bottle. During the transfer I spilled some of it. Quite a bit of it actually...
The spill was covered about five to six square inches of space on the counter and the aromas from the blend were quickly filling the air even with the ventilation unit on. I quickly began removing items out of the area unaffected by the spill to get ready to clean the counter space. I then opened all the windows I could to help get fresh air cycled into the room I was working in. After that, I cleaned everything off of the counter, began re-sterilizing the counters and disposed of the trash that held all of the spill.
I was fully covered and protected by nitrile gloves, my lab coat, mask, and goggles and was surprised to find that I did not get much on me at all. BUT, this could have been a huge issue. Ylang-ylang can lower blood pressure. For someone like me with low BP it could have had dire consequences. There is also the concern of over exposure with a spill like this let alone dermal maximum recommendations. Ylang-ylang also has a maximum dermal recommendation of 0.8%1 based off IFRA recommendations. What if I had not been wearing gloves? A lab coat? My mask or goggles?
So that night I was thanking my lucky stars that I am careful not only about maintaining cGMP, but also for understanding that those standards of using PPE can protect me, too. If you are someone who regularly blends essential oils for DIY items, please make sure you protect yourself when using any essential oil.
I hope that whether you are an experienced practitioner, formulator, or home user can see how PPE is important. I encourage you to ask more questions and seek more information when it comes to using essential oils. No, PPE can’t prevent accidents, but it can minimize your exposure which is key for those of us who need them or use them daily. A reaction can take years to happen or one occurrence.
1 Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential oil safety: A guide for health care professionals(2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
2Sensitization - What Is It and How To Reduce The Risk. (2016, October 15). Retrieved April 25, 2018, from http://aromatherapyunited.org/sensitization/
3Kreydin, A. (2016, October 19). Meet Amy. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10211359717123515&set=a.1166996569944.26862.1078809801&type=3&theater
4Kreydin, A. (2017, July 12). Amy Kreydin (The Barefoot Dragonfly) Pipette Explodes[Photograph]. The Barefoot Dragonfly, Austin, TX.