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Henkel manager speaks at Arizona State University on measuring product safety

Can you measure how safe a product is? To demonstrate progress in sustainability, various stakeholders are looking for meaningful key performance indicators for all aspects of sustainability – including product safety. Recently, Frederike Wiebel, Director of Corporate Toxicology based in Düsseldorf, spoke at Arizona State University on the challenges of quantifying product safety, and shared her ideas on how product safety can be incorporated into measuring sustainability.

“Before you can develop a method to measure product safety, you need to understand how it is actually assessed,” Frederike explained. She outlined how risk assessments consist of two aspects: the assessment of the hazard or “intrinsic property” of a certain ingredient, and the “assessment of the exposure” of the user towards the chemical. “The dose makes the poison,” Frederike noted. To envision that concept she asked her audience to visualize a lion, which is very dangerous (a hazard), but as long as in a cage, does not pose a risk. Frederike also explained that exposure depends on the application, dose, duration, and frequency of product use. To understand the entire picture, Henkel toxicologists investigate the exposure during and after use, as well as when a product is accidentally used incorrectly. She and her team determine the safe level of chemicals in Henkel products to ensure human health and the environment are not at risk. Frederike closed her presentation with suggestions on how to find the balance between human and environmental safety and other aspects of sustainability, like transportation or waste.

Henkel has established long-term partnerships with Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas for their collaboration on The Sustainability Consortium®. In this consortium, the universities, companies, and retailers such as Walmart work together on the challenges of sustainability, which include product safety and risk assessments. Frederike’s speech was a featured topic at The Sustainability Consortium ASU office and organized by Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. The event was attended by students, consumers, faculty members from the school and the consortium leaders. A future collaboration model in educating consumers, measuring risks and innovations – working with external partners to find long-term alternatives for specific chemicals – was the topic of discussion for the following roundtable lunch. Dr. Pete He, Henkel Senior Research Fellow and Sustainability expert in Scottsdale said, “We need a new type of collaboration – on a global level – to meet the challenge of our business stakeholders and consumer demands on product safety through science-based sustainability standards.”


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