What Are Parabens?
Parabens are creating a stir in the media, but many of us don’t know exactly what they are. The Good Human hopes to debunk the rumours and present you with the facts and tools to make informed decisions on whether or not you will be boycotting parabens in your home.
Parabens are frequently added to cosmetics to prevent the growth of bacteria. They have been in use since the 1950s and the vast majority of cosmetics use a combination of them, because they are cheap and effective. The ones to be aware of are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.
Technically, parabens are a chemical compound of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and they are used as preservatives. Most that are added to our cosmetics are man-made and not naturally occurring. Naturally occurring parabens have been found in blueberries, of all places!
New York City dermatologist Fran E. Cook-Bolden is quoted as saying, “Parabens have a long history of safe use, and that’s why they’re commonplace. New preservatives have less of a proven track record.”
Numerous studies have been conducted, on both sides of the argument about parabens – so the questions remains. Should we avoid them?
The problem with parabens has been identified because they are xenoestrogens, i.e. they mimic oestrogen in the body. This has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues, including early onset of puberty and reduced sperm count.
Researchers have found parabens in breast tumors and believe there is a relationship between parabens and tumors. And in the July 2002 issue of the Archives of Toxicology, Dr. S. Oishi of the Department of Toxicology, Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health reported that exposure of newborn male mammals to butylparaben “adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.”
It also appears that parabens can be stored in the body, resulting in a cumulative effect that can damage health over time. Research been found to link them to cancerous cells, but does not compare results with levels of parabens in noncancerous cells.
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