05 Feb 2002

The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) today released a draft report on the chemical limonene, for public comment. The report assesses the health, safety, and environmental risks of limonene as it is used in Australia and makes recommendations.

Limonene is used widely as a fragrance additive in household and cosmetic products. It is also present in most of the essential oils that are commonly used in Australia, particularly citrus oils. In the workplace, it is used mainly in hand cleaners, industrial cleaning and degreasing products, removers and strippers.

Limonene is manufactured in Australia from orange oils by extraction through distillation. It is also imported both as raw material and as an ingredient in products.

The report finds that limonene causes skin irritation, and that contact with oxidised products of limonene (formed by exposure of limonene to light and air) can cause skin sensitisation.

A high potential for worker exposure during re-packing and use of limonene or limonene products is identified, especially when working in confined spaces, or using certain modes of application such as spraying, and where personal protection is not used.

Most limonene-containing consumer products contain less than 1 per cent limonene. This level of limonene presents little risk of adverse health effects.

The report recommends a number of measures to prevent the formation of oxidation products and suggests oxidised limonene be included in standard allergy patch tests.

The report also recommends that the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission classify limonene as a skin sensitiser, and that suppliers update their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), labels and training materials to reflect the classification.

There is likely to be no adverse effects on aquatic organisms however limonene may contribute to aerosol and photochemical smog formation.

Submissions must be received by 5 March 2002.


The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) operates under the Commonwealth Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989.

NICNAS is a statutory scheme within the portfolio of the Minister for Health and Ageing. Its approach to the scientific assessment of chemicals covers toxicity, exposure and use to assess the environmental, public health and occupational health and safety risk. For more information see the web site www.nicnas.gov.au

Further information

Nick Miller, NICNAS, (02) 8577 8810 or 0407 228 285