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Parabens

by Trevor Steyn

FILED IN: Issue 13 · What Goes On, Goes In

Parabens are used in approximately 98% of personal care products as preservatives. They are the cheapest way for manufacturers of these products to control the microbes that would otherwise proliferate.

There is, however, growing concern about the safety of parabens and manufacturers of raw materials are rapidly launching alternatives.

A study in 1998 by Dr Routledge et al in the UK showed that parabens mimic the hormone estrogen. The effect was shown to be stronger for the longer chain parabens like butyl and propyl paraben.

Sperm counts have fallen by half over the past 50 years and breast cancer has increased by more than 30% since 1980. These increases are almost certainly linked to estrogen mimics.
In 2004 Dr Darbre of Reading University showed that parabens were present in 24 of the 27 breast cancer tumours that she analysed.

Almost all breast tumours need estrogen to grow.

The most recent finding was by Professor Yoshikawa in September 2005. He found that methyl paraben in the presence of UV, accelerates the aging process in skin cells.
Parabens have been banned by all the major organic certifiers in the world including the US, the UK, Europe, Australia and Japan.

The industry response is that these chemicals have been cleared for use by the relevant authorities (FDA and ECC) and have been used for decades. The link between smoking and cancer took 50 years to gain public support. Health concerns raised by the parabens will hopefully be recognized sooner.

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2 Comments »

  1. It is really sad to see Biophile still pushing this paraben propaganda, that parabens are cancer-causing endocrine disruptors.

    Many common phytochemicals, e.g. from soybeans or the mycotoxins on maize, are thousands of times more potent as endocrine disruptors than are the feebly estrogenic parabens. Parabens are the safest preservatives available and are, in fact, widely distributed in many fruits, vegetables and spices and are natural components of black and green teas. Parabens are not carcinogenic, mutagenic or clastogenic.

    The unproven linking of minute amounts of parabens in human breast tumour tissues to causality of breast cancer is grossly unscientific. Darbre, who advanced her over-enthusiasm for this idea without evidence and became a celebrity researcher, has ever since desperately attempted to restore her professional reputation by vindicating her premature conclusion, to no avail, in spite of intensified research. Many far more potent endocrine disrupters in much higher amounts are detectable in human tissues.

    It is difficult to correct public perceptions once the media lose interest and no longer report on a hypothesis that has turned out to be false. The public deserve to know this and that the p-hydroxybenzoic acid present in most plants is almost as oestrogenic as methyl- and propyl- parabens; that soya is 100-1000 times more so and that naturally occurring estradiol (oestrogen) is even 10,000- to 100,000-fold more potent still.

    Long-term research has confirmed that regular application of parabens can lead to mild localised estrogenic effects in skin due to inhibition of oestrogen sulfotransferase activity and that the anti-aging benefits of many topical products are derived, in part, from this effect. Clearly the established benefits by far outweigh any perceived risks.

    To the disbelief of many, para-hydroxybenzoic acid is the most widely distributed aromatic organic acid in the vegetable kingdom. All higher plants require it to produce coenzyme-Q for respiration and some as pollinator attractants / defensive chemicals. Paraben in urine from healthy humans is from decomposition of tyrosine (amino acid) and from carrot, onion, olive, strawberry, cucumber, vanilla, cocoa and tea in the diet.

    The now feared esters Methyl- and Propyl- paraben are nature-identical anti-microbial agents that actually do exist in nature and are indispensable to consumer safety. Plants known to synthesise Methyl paraben include Granadilla and Oca, a tuber widely consumed in South America. It is also a natural component of Royal bee jelly. Plants known to synthesise Propyl paraben include Mango and Cloudberry and Verticillium spp, a filamentous fungi inhabiting decaying vegetation and organic soil.

    Please let us get some perspective on reality here, for the sake of readers who rely on Biophile for guidance in truth.

    Yours sincerely

    Stuart Thomson

    Comment by Stuart Thomson

  2. Have you considered these important factors-
    1. ingested parabens are metabolized by enzymatic activity of liver and individuals have variations in their enzymatic activities
    2. Topically applied parabens with presumably prolonged contact time (+/- UV light) can cause local and systemic effects sine they may partly escape liver degradation.
    Clearly with the doubt of safety being raised, further scientific research and clarifications are needed.

    Comment by Janet Ogawa

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