Today I had a phone call from someone asking me “Where can one report adverse reactions to essential oils?”.  It turns out that after attending a Home Party where essential oils were being demonstrated, used liberally and sold, she ended up in Emergency with a serious reaction. Although the individual running the Home Party was a nurse, it seems apparent, both from her recommendations, and her response when she heard about the adverse reaction, that she had little or no training in the effective and safe use of essential oils.  This lady was looking for advice on who to contact to report the situation.   Unfortunately I don’t really have a simple answer.

If you have a reaction to a product sold to you over the counter you can contact Health Canada or the FDA.  The question here is was the product sold over the counter at fault, or was it the fault of the misinformation and bad advice on application and dosage that caused the problem?

Before making any recommendations, Professional Aromatherapists will always get information about the client, their health issues, lifestyle etc.  That way they will have a clear picture of the situation and can recommend the appropriate oils, methods of use, dosages etc.   They are also well aware of their Scope of Practice and covered under their Professional Liability Insurance.

On the other hand when the person recommending essential oils, dosages and methods of use has little or no formal training in the use of essential oils, problems can and do arise.  Essential Oils are very potent.  In the hands of a person trained in their effective and safe use that are very effective.  In the hands of an amateur they can be dangerous.    Anyone who believes that essential oils will work the same way for everyone clearly needs training.  Anyone who believes that there are set specific oils for specific conditions also needs  training.   Anyone who makes off the cuff suggestions and recommendations is demonstrating their lack of  knowledge.  While they may be well trained in another modality or profession, unless they have extensive training in the safe and effective use of essential oils,  They are not working within a legal Scope of Practice, and probably don’t have Professional Liability Insurance.

Unfortunately, it is often, ‘buyer beware” and  the onus is on the individual to do their own research, before allowing themselves to be swept away by slick sales and generalized advice.

At this time there are only a few things that one can do.

  1. If it is the product that is at fault, file a report with Health Canada or the FDA.
  2. If the problem arose because of the faulty advice they were given they can try suing the person who gave them that advice. They might also be able to speak to the company the person giving them the advice represents and/or works for but often the companies distance themselves and the sales person is left to ‘face the music’. 
  3. Get your story out there and let others know. This is great in theory but unless you are social media savvy and know how to get your postings to go viral it can be a long haul.

In the meantime here are some resources that might be helpful.

Reporting Products

Health Canada
Health Canada Adverse reaction and Medical Device Problem Reporting
Canadian Vigilance Reporting
Adverse Reaction Reporting for Specific Products
If you are in the Business of selling essential oils to the general public you should probably be aware of this Guidance Document for Industry – Reporting Adverse Reactions to Marketed Health Products. 

Bad Reaction to Cosmetics – Tell the FDA
MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting Form
FDA Consumer Complaint Co-ordinators
Reporting unlawful sales of Medical Products on the Internet

What to do if you have an Adverse Reaction

Any one experiencing adverse reactions to essential oils should seek immediate medical attention, call 911, Poison Control or your medical doctor.

Poison Centres in Canada

Accidental poisoning is a common cause of injuries in Canada. A selection of helpful materials on how to prevent accidental poisonings in your home is available at the site of the Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres.

ISMP Canada recommends that you confirm the telephone number of the poison centre for your area and post it in a visible place in your home.

Alberta: Poison and Drug Information Services (PADIS) Toll-free 1-800-332-1414

British Columbia: British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre Toll-free 1-800-567-8911 (604) 682-5050

Manitoba: Manitoba Poison Control Centre Toll-free 1-855-7POISON (1-855-776-4766)

New Brunswick: 911

Newfoundland and Labrador:  Poison Information Centre – Toll-free 1-866-727-1110 (709) 722-1110

Northwest Territories: Poison and Drug Information Services (PADIS) Toll-free 1-800-332-1414

Nova Scotia:  IWK Regional Poison Centre Toll-free 1-800-565-8161 (within Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) or call 911 and ask to speak to the Poison Centre

Nanavut Toll-Free 1-800-268-9017

Ontario: Ontario Poison Centre Toll-free 1-800-268-9017 (within Ontario) (416) 813-5900 (Greater Toronto Area)

Prince Edward Island: IWK Regional Poison Centre Toll-free 1-800-565-8161

Québec: Québec Poison Control Centre (Centre antipoison du Québec ) Toll-free 1-800-463-5060

Saskatchewan: Poison and Drug Information Services (PADIS) Toll-free 1-866-454-1212

Yukon Territory: Yukon Poison Control Centre – Whitehorse General Hospital  (867) 393-8700

Poison Centres in the USA

Poison Control 1-800-222-1222

There are 55 poison centers in the United States of America. Your call will be routed to the center that serves you, based on your area code and exchange.

Poison Centres Elsewhere

If you live outside of Canada and the USA then source out your local Poison control Centre.

Reporting an adverse essential oil reaction/injury to the Aromatherapy Industry.
In the USA

Aromatherapy United
Tisserand Institute Adverse Reaction Database[/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”one_half_last_clear”]

In Canada

Presently there is no body set up to accept adverse reaction/injury reports.

You might also want to read Adverse Reactions to Essential Oils and Essential Oil Products, Skin Sensitization and Misconceptions about Adverse Reactions to Essential Oils

There are also a number of articles on Safety in the Articles Archive under Safety