Are parabens dangerous?
Even if you have never heard of parabens, you have almost certainly been using and ingesting them for decades. They are in nearly every cosmetic, and many food products that we use everyday, and currently, their impacts on health are a hotly debated topic in the scientific and health-conscious communities.
What are parabens?
Parabens are a group of chemicals that are used in preservatives in cosmetics. They prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus, and are widely used in shampoos and conditioners, makeup, toothpaste, moisturizing lotions, self-tanners, shaving lotion, and other topical creams. They are also found in many foods. They are listed in the ingredients under names such as methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.
Are parabens dangerous?
Recent studies have found disturbing results of paraben use, though they have yet to be deemed unsafe by the FDA.
Parabens have been found in breast tumors, leading to concerns that parabens in deodorants, which are applied near the breast, may contribute to tumor development. The study did not, however, determine that parabens caused the cancer, nor contributed to it. These results have been hotly debated in the scientific community, and the current consensus is that parabens are safe and do not contribute to breast cancer.
Studies have shown parabens can have estrogenic activity in the cell, and some estrogens are known to drive tumor growth. Again, the scientific communities' consensus on this is that the very low doses of parabens in underarm deodorants make them unlikely to enter the breast tissue and remain to cause cancer.
Male reproductive systems
A Japanese study found that paraben exposure affected the secretion of testosterone and the general functioning of the male reproductive system in newborn male rats. This is merely one study, and a review of the literature declared that it was biologically impossible that parabens caused this.
Should I avoid parabens?
Currently the FDA does not regulate the cosmetics industry and manufacturers can use any ingredients they want in their products. The long-term use of parabens is largely the reason cited for paraben safety.
There have been times in the past when the toxicity of a particular substance (for example, lead) was unknown and the product was used in numerous substances that surrounded people everyday, leading to marked health problems. This may not be the case for parabens at all-science has yet to prove it. Thus, limiting one's exposure to parabens is a personal choice, and there are plenty of paraben-free products available. One of the best lines of paraben-free products I've found it the Burt's Bees line, which makes everything from face wash to diaper cream to lip balm to moisturizing cream. There are quite a few companies out there that provide and advertise paraben-free on their label if you do decide to take caution and avoid the chemical.