Essential Oils

Hazards, Warnings, and Guidelines

General Guidelines

  1. Read and follow all label cautions and warnings
  2. Keep out of reach of children and pets
  3. Do not use on babies, children or pets
  4. Keep away from flame, heat and ignition sources (essential oils are flammable)
  5. Do not apply undiluted (neat) essential oils directly onto skin; dilute with a carrier oil first
  6. Always conduct a patch test of diluted essential oil on the inner arm before using; do not use if redness or irritation occurs
  7. Do not ingest essential oils
  8. Keep essential oils out of eyes, ears, nose, mouth and any body opening
  9. Never assume an essential oil possesses the same properties as its plant
  10. If you have sensitive skin, epilepsy, heart or kidney problems, or any serious medical condition, do not use essential oils unless advised by a physician or medical professional that it is safe

In Case of an Accident

  1. If essential oil gets into eyes: Immediately flush with cold milk or vegetable oil to dilute; if stinging persists, seek medical attention
  2. If essential oil gets on hands: Use cream or vegetable oil to dilute; wash with soap and warm water; repeat if necessary
  3. If ingested: Call National Capital Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222
  4. If ingested by a pet: Follow directions on label or call the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435; be prepared to pay $50 with a credit card

Special Tips for Massage Therapists

  1. Prolonged exposure to essential oils can cause headaches, nausea and a general feeling of uneasiness; ensure adequate ventilation, drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks
  2. Do not operate a motorized vehicle (or allow a client to do so) immediately following a relaxation treatment or after using soporific oils such as clary or sage
  3. If a given essential oil is used daily over two weeks, allow one week of rest before continuing use
  4. Vary oils to reduce the chance of acquiring a sensitivity reaction
  5. Avoid sensitizing oils if hands become sore or cracked

Environmental Safety

Did you know that some essential oils are so potent that their spills must be handled as if they are hazardous? That's right. Take tea tree oil, for example. If it spills, it cannot be allowed to enter a sewer or waterway. It should be absorbed with inert material and sealed in a container. Then the container must be disposed of as if it were a hazardous waste in accordance with local, state or federal laws.

Such information is included on the Material Safety Data Sheet for every essential oil. These sheets are particularly helpful for essential oil suppliers such as Mountain Rose Herbs to store and handle essential oils, as required by the Chemicals Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply Regulations. The MSDS includes important information such as flammability and chemical composition. Mountain Rose Herbs can supply an MSDS for any essential oil we stock upon request.

Each sheet contains Risk Numbers and Safety Numbers. For example, tea tree oil possesses these Risk Numbers:

R10 - flammable
R22 - harmful if swallowed
R38 - irritating to the skin

These Risk Numbers enable the purchaser to take applicable precautions when using the oil, and help ensure personal safety and environmental safety. Here are some sample risk numbers designed to protect our environment:

R51: Toxic to aquatic organisms
R54: Toxic to flora
R55: Toxic to fauna
R58: May cause long-term adverse effects in the environment
R59: Dangerous to the ozone layer

The Safety Numbers list precautions for storage, disposal and handling. Here are a few sample Safety Numbers:

S29: Do not empty into drains
S35: This material and its container must be disposed of in a safe way
S37: Wear suitable gloves
S38: In case of insufficient ventilation, wear suitable respiratory equipment
S41: In case of fire and/or explosion, do not breathe fumes

So if you have essential oil that has expired, or if you have a large spill, don't wash it down the drain or flush it down the toilet! You could contaminate underground drinking water aquifers, which is of immediate concern to households that rely on wells.

You can call Mountain Rose Herbs at (800) 879-3337 for a Material Safety Data Sheet.

Most MSDS sheets for essential oils comply with local, state or federal laws for disposal--so be ready to call the waste department of your state environmental agency.