Parabens are chemical compounds based on parahydroxybenzoic acid. They are widely used in cosmetics and by the pharmaceutical industry as well as used as a food additive. They are an effective preservative and used to make products last longer by killing mould and fungii before they can spread and damage the product. Due to this and the fact that they are relatively cheap, parabens are very common within our society with around ¾ of market place selling health and beauty products containing parabens in the list of ingredients . As different types of parabens prevent the growth of different organisms many different derivatives of parabens are used to ensure the longevity of the product.
Examples where parabens can be found:-
- Make up
- Shaving gel
- Over the counter/prescription medications
- Processed meat
For the majority of people parabens in health and beauty products do not cause any outward or visible damage. There are a few who when coming into contact with a product containing parabens suffer with forms of dermatitis and skin complaints due to the product irritating the skin. However it is what is suggested that occurs on the inside which may be more detrimental to health.
Research in the 1990’s suggested that parabens were found to mimic the female hormone oestrogen, which although much weaker than oestrogen could, with a build-up, disrupt the oestrogen in the body. This was further fuelled with research in 2004 finding parabens in malignant breast tumours. A more recent study in 2012 discovered that 99% of healthy breast tissue samples contained at least 1 paraben . It should be stated however that there is no conclusive evidence or direct link between parabens and cancer.
Having said this, companies who produce the health and beauty products in question and who add the chemicals to food products are keeping within the current government guidelines and laws. From their point of view their campaign would state that parabens extend the longevity of food products and cosmetics. This in turn reduces waste in landfills and reduces the cost of living for consumers.
Although there are some positives from a producer and consumer point of view, the implications although not 100% conclusive do suggest some links to an impact on health and wellbeing.
If you are at all swayed to reduce your use of parabens below is a list of ingredients that if listed on products will contain parabens:-