Monday, January 16, 2012


A few weeks ago I posted a link to the Suzuki Foundation's "Dirty Dozen". These are twelve chemicals to avoid in your personal care products. Once you start noticing them, you'll see that some of them can be difficult to avoid. Case in point: parabens. I've even found them in the majority of "natural" products I picked up in health food stores. Although it is possible to avoid them. Once you find a paraben-free product you like, stick with it!

Parabens are thought to act similar to estrogen and thus disrupt a person's hormones. By "thought to" I mean, they're listed as a Category 1 chemical by the European Commission on Endocrine [hormone system] Disruption. Category 1 means there is research "evidence of endocrine disrupting activity in at least one species using intact animals." In Europe, concentrations of parabens in cosmetics are regulated. There are no regulations around them in Canada.

The thing about hormones is that very small amounts can trigger changes in your system. An article in the news this week reported that a new study detected parabens in 99% of 160 breast tumour samples tested. Of course this doesn't prove a direct link between paraben exposure and breast cancer, but it is interesting, and not the first time this result has been observed in research.

I also found it interesting that the study mentioned a variety of paraben sources (see list below), and the researchers were quoted as saying they were intrigued that even women who did not use deodorant had parabens in their tumours.

Sources of parabens:
-shaving foam
-tanning products
-processed meats
-some natural foods

In general, when reading studies about the safe doses of synthetic chemicals and the potential risks, I keep in mind that in these modern times, I'm exposed to a myriad of chemicals everyday. Until we can map out the many chemicals we are exposed to every day, the interactions between each and every one of them and the physical variables in our bodies that change our vulnerabilities (age, gender, acidity) we have no way of predicting what the cumulative, or even synergistic impacts of these chemicals will be. Maybe a couple of parabens in my deodorant everyday won't harm me. But maybe that dose, along with the others in products I use that have yet to be quantified, will reach a threshold above which physical effects will occur.

I think we're better off safe than sorry. If you can afford the time and money to, try to avoid parabens. Most have the name "paraben" in the ingredients. For example, methylparaben, butylparaben etc. However, fragrances may also have parabens, and there is no way of knowing that, as companies are not required to list the ingredients in their fragrances. (Source: David Suzuki Foundation)

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