In recent years PARABENS have become a very hot topic. Many of you may be wondering what parabens are, where you find them and why they should be avoided.
First, lets begin with the what: Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bacteriocidal and fungicidal properties.
Where you find them is almost every cosmetic product. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteralpharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives. Common parabens include methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216) and butylparaben. 

Less common parabens include isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben and their sodium salts. These will always be listed in the ingredients section of the product you are purchasing.

Why should we care about parabens? Parabens are considered to be safe because of their low toxicity profile and their long history of safe use; however, a few recent studies have begun to challenge this view.
It seems as if parabens act as endocrine disruptors (they disrupt our hormone system), man or woman, estrogen or testosterone. What is an endocrine disruptor? Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances, primarily man-made synthetics, that interfere with the function of the endocrine/hormone system. 

These chemicals mimic, block or disrupt the actions of human (and animal) hormones and, unexpectedly, do more damage at low levels of exposure than at high levels.

These chemicals can also work in sinister yet subtle ways by disrupting the body’s ability to produce adequate quantities of hormones or by interfering with the body’s hormonal pathways. One single chemical can affect many parts of the endocrine system. Often minute amounts of several of these environmental hormone chemicals can combine to create effects thousands of times more potent than a single chemical.
The endocrine system regulates every function of the body. It consists of the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, the pancreas, the ovaries and the testes, all linked to the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is like the mainframe computer of the body, sending signals to the glands that provide the instructions for creating hormones.
When you rub body care products on your body or hair dye on your scalp you can absorb or inhale synthetic chemicals that contain endocrine disruptors which may send false signals to your body’s endocrine glands. When your glands are confused they cannot function normally and serious health problems result. In addition, when you bathe, whatever chemicals aren’t absorbed by your body are washed down the drain into the drinking water supply, where they can cause a cascade of negative environmental problems. These endocrine disruptors are affecting algae and other microscopic life, fish, whales and birds. Humans are exposed when they drink the water and eat the fish contaminated by personal care product chemicals. The government has found sunscreen chemicals in fish and human breast milk.
Endocrine disruptors are stored in a body’s fatty tissues and do not get flushed out with water, thus they accumulate over the years. It is now recognized that the dramatic increases of breast cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and thyroid cancer have been linked to exposure to environmental estrogens. In particular, parabens mimic estrogen, a hormone necessary for a healthy menstruation, reproductive system and fat cell activity. A Scottish study found parabens in human breast tumors. In the past twenty-five years in the US, alone, thyroid cancer has increased more than 45%, with more women being affected than men, and has become the number one cancer in children under age twenty, many of whom suffered from fetal endocrine disruption.
How can you protect yourself? Read every ingredient on every personal care product label and be suspicious of every chemical ingredient.
Here is a list of common products that contain parabens:
  • Cosmetics Foundations
  • powders, concealers
  • eye makeup (liners, shadows, mascara)
  • facial makeup (blushes)
  • bronzes
  • makeup removers
  • lipstick, quick-dry nail products
  • Pharmaceutical Products Topical dermatological medications, eye, ear and nose drops, rectal and vaginal medications, bandages, parenteral products, including antibiotics, corticosteroids, local anesthetics, radiopharmaceuticals, vitamins, antihypertensives, diuretics, insulin, heparin, and chemotherapeutic agents
  • Personal Care Products Moisturizing lotions and creams, dentifrices, sunscreens, cleansers and other skin care products, antiperspirants and deodorants, soaps, including liquid hand soap and toothpastes, shampoos and conditioners, colognes, and perfumes
  • Food Products (E210-219)Marinated fish products, salad dressings, mayonnaise, mustard, spiced sauces, processed vegetables, frozen dairy products, jams and jellies, soft drinks and fruit juices, baked goods, and candies
  • Industrial Products Parabens are used industrially in oils, fats, shoe polishes, textiles, and glues.

To You and Your Families Health,

Keith Abell, RPh CIP MI

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