Friday, January 14, 2011

parabens – relax already, or why I don’t care if there are parabens in my moisturizer

I was watching Breakfast Television this morning and there was a woman on promoting her new book and revealing products to avoid that contained…parabens! Dunh duhn duhhhhn. I would normally have just ignored this but it’s been on my mind. I was with my mummy picking out a new moisturizer for her and she was discarding options because they had parabens in them. I’ve heard the claims but never really cared personally. Since my family was altering choices based on it I wanted to know more. How are they dangerous? How much parabens pose a threat? What sort of study was done to discover this and has it been duplicated or backed up by other researchers/institutions?

I found the below articles which validate my gut reaction; let me tell you they were a lot harder to find than those espousing doom and gloom and cosmetic industry conspiracies. I was looking for something that said ‘relax, you probably won’t die’ and I’d forget about the whole thing. What I found was the Canadian Cancer society, among others, saying that the initial 2004 study which declared a link between breast cancer and parabens didn’t have sufficient information for them to back the claim. I found out that 18 or 20 breast cancer tissues studied had parabens in them. I also found out that healthy breast tissue wasn’t examined so couldn't be proved to be paraben-free. If the healthy tissue also had 18 out of 20 instances of parabens then we don’t really have a link do we? They weren’t tested so we don’t know. We also don’t know how the parabens came into the systems of the women whose tissue was used. Was it ingested, from naturally occurring parabens in fruits and vegetables or synthetic parabens in black tea, spices etc.? Or was it absorbed from skin lotion and various cosmetics? The study doesn’t say.

Parabens: Is the Danger Real?
Stuart H. Kalan MD
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “The best preservatives for sensitive skin are those containing parabens.” (2002 Prof Zoe Draelos, Summer Scientific Meeting, New York, AAD, 2002).
 In fact, two common parabens, Methylparaben and Propylparaben, which are used widely in cosmetic skin products, are also used to preserve spices, black and green teas, beer, fruit juices, jams, and wine.

New data on parabens suggests no adverse hormonal effect on the body
Katie Bird
According to Schellauf, PHBA is not known to have any estrogenic effects and is found widely in plants and human food, so trace exposure in the human organism poses no health risk.
“The study confirms the results of a number of research studies, which concluded from their work that parabens are metabolised rapidly and to a large extent in living organisms and therefore cannot exhibit any adverse effects,” said industry trade body Colipa.

Antiperspirants and breast cancer
In January 2004 new research published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found an ingredient called parabens in 20 human breast tumours. Parabens are preservatives used in many pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic products (including a range of cosmetics applied to the underarm and breast area). The researchers stated that parabens have been known to mimic the effects of estrogen, which can promote breast cancer tumour growth.
Canadian Cancer Society perspective
The research published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology did not show a direct cause and effect relationship between antiperspirants, deodorants and breast cancer. The findings are interesting, but the study was small. More research is needed to provide definitive answers about this issue.

Parabens: Are They Really a Problem?
Paula Begoun
Current research investigating how parabens act when administered orally, topically, and subcutaneously to rats has shown that "parabens are metabolized rapidly and to a large extent in living organisms and therefore cannot exhibit any adverse effects." According to these studies, parabens are "fully metabolized before they enter the blood stream." In a review of the estrogenic activity of parabens, the author concluded that based on maximum daily exposure estimates, "it was impossible that parabens could increase the risk associated with exposure to estrogenic chemicals."

Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer: Questions and Answers
National Cancer Institute

The belief that parabens build up in breast tissue was supported by a 2004 study, which found parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from human breast tumors (5). However, this study did not prove that parabens cause breast tumors (4). The authors of this study did not analyze healthy breast tissue or tissues from other areas of the body and did not demonstrate that parabens are found only in cancerous breast tissue (5). Furthermore, this research did not identify the source of the parabens and cannot establish that the buildup of parabens is due to the use of deodorants or antiperspirants.

I don’t doubt that the cosmetic industry wants the most cost effective solution to prolong their products shelf life. It is after all a business. They want to make money and lower costs just like (gasp!) every other business in the universe. I do doubt that Elizabeth Arden, John Frieda and Bobbi Brown are meeting in shadowy underground bunkers to scheme and plot world domination.

I do know that if a product lasts more than a few months it has to have an artificial preservative in it. I’m the last person to keep doing something just because that’s the way it’s always been done, but I would rather use one that has been studied and used for decades than something new that we can’t know what, if any, long term effects it may have.

Just a thought.

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