Biodegradability priority: Iberchem seeks to provide fragrance assurance with new testing lab

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

Biodegradability priority: Iberchem seeks to provide fragrance assurance with new testing lab

Related tags Fragrance

Iberchem’s new in-house biodegradability testing laboratory, Iberchem Biodegradability Investigation (IB-BI), has opened for business in the company’s Spanish headquarters in Alcantarilla, Spain.

The internal testing laboratory will be used to determine the biodegradability of fragrances in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) testing guidelines, to create high-performance, biodegradable fragrance solutions.

The new initiative is part of the wider sustainability strategy of its parent company Croda.

Scientific validation and faster response time

By testing fragrance ingredients in the lab, Iberchem says it will be able to meet the global need for environmentally friendly products faster than ever. It also says it will be able to give fragrance brands total assurance that the ingredients are scientifically validated as biodegradable, so they can market them with complete certainty. 

“Biodegradability is undoubtedly a key priority when developing our ingredient portfolio,”​ says Manuel Serna, New Technologies Scientist at Iberchem. “We have a dedicated team focused on developing methodologies based on OECD regulations allowing us to carry out testing associated with technology development, including fragrance studies and polymer research for microencapsulation​.”

Each ingredient has a different nature

IB-BI has been developed via a collaboration between Iberchem’s parent company Croda and seed enhancement company INCOTEC (which is also owned by Croda,) to create a network of expert biodegradability testing laboratories to discover the biodegradability of fragrances and fragrance technologies.

Serna says Iberchem has already started testing new ingredients every month and is feeding the internal data system. ​However, there are currently some limitations. “We must highlight that the fragrance components themselves are limiting of the test, since they have effects that are due to premature doses to the microbial inoculum of the test,” ​he says. “For example, essential oils have a number of secondary metabolites that can inhibit or slow the growth of pathogenic bacteria and fungi, making them natural antimicrobials that can affect the test if the dosage is not determined correctly.”

A standardised OECD 301F test

The OECD has a series of standard methodologies to help determine the biodegradability of a compound. Iberchem took these into account along with the various matrices that exist in the fragrance industry and established a standardised ‘OECD 301F’ test, which it will use in the new laboratory.  

This test is based around whether oxygen consumption is reported. If there is oxygen consumption, this means that the raw material being studied is digested by the microbial inoculum, so the ingredient is at least somewhat biodegradable.

“OECD 301F is a solution aerobic biodegradation test that determines the biodegradability of a material by measuring oxygen consumption over 28 days using the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Theoretical Oxygen Demand (ThOD) parameters,” ​explains Serna. “It is a method that allows the measurement of insoluble and volatile materials, which is fundamental for the analysis of fragrances.” 

During the test, the BOD device collects the values of the internal pressure change and sends these to software, which then combines it with the ThOD and, after 28 days, determines the biodegradability values.

There are possible biodegradability classifications for fragrance ingredients. These are:

• ‘Readily biodegradable’ – if the biodegradability value exceeds 60%.

• ‘Potentially biodegradable’ – if the value is greater than 20% but less than 60%. In this case, the test requires rethinking.

• ‘Non-biodegradable’ – if the values are less than 20%.


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