Tea Tree Oil

Health written question – answered on 7th April 2005.

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Photo of Charles Hendry Charles Hendry Shadow Minister (Children, Young People and Families), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he has identified potential risks to human health from the use of products containing tea tree oil; and if he will make a statement on EU proposals to stop the sale of such products.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

holding answer 4 April 2005

The major risk identified from the use of consumer products containing tea tree oil comes from the sensitising potential of concentrated (greater than 2 per cent.) solutions, particularly if the product has been exposed to oxygen, sunlight or higher temperatures. However, the European Scientific Committee on consumer products has advised that the data available are currently insufficient to assess the potential risk of a range of toxic effects.

The Committee requested that a complete package of data be provided in order for them to give an opinion on the potential risks. The conclusions will then be used to amend the cosmetics directive in order to make any restrictions on the use of tea tree oil in cosmetic products legally enforceable. In the meantime, industry has advised that tea tree oil should only be used in cosmetic products at concentrations at or below 1 per cent., and should be formulated and packaged in a way to minimise degradation.

15 medicinal products containing tea tree oil, licensed under medicines legislation, are available in the United Kingdom. There may be other medicines that contain tea tree oil, which currently reach the market as unlicensed herbal remedies. These will potentially qualify to be registered under Directive 2004/24/EC when it is implemented on 30 October this year. To qualify for registration, products will have to demonstrate that they comply with the required evidence of traditional usage and that they meet the required standards of safety and quality.

As with all medicines, the safety of medicinal products containing tea tree oil is closely monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. There are no safety concerns specific to the medicinal use of tea tree oil but all effective treatments may cause unwanted side effects in some patients, which may be the result of individual sensitivity to the medicine concerned.

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