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ethyl-methyl-butyl-propyl Parabens

Are parabens safe when used on the skin?

Concern over deodorant chemicals - "E-mail to a friend" 

 BBC News Item 11/01/04

Parabens Cause Accelerated Aging of Skin

Other Names for Parabens

Industry Refutes Parabens are Dangerous

Recommended Paraben Free Deodorant

Breast cancer cells
The chemicals were found in breast cancer tumours

Chemicals from underarm deodorants and other cosmetics can build up inside the body, according to a study.

British researchers have found traces of chemicals called parabens in tissue taken from women with breast cancer.

While there is no evidence parabens cause cancer, the scientists have called for the use of parabens to be reviewed.

The cosmetics industry insists that parabens, which are used as preservatives and are approved for use by regulators, are safe.

Dr Philippa Darbre and colleagues at the University of Reading carried out tests on samples of 20 different human breast tumours.

Writing in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, they say they found traces of parabens in every sample.

Parabens have a very, very good safety profile
Chris Flower,
Cosmetic Toiletry & Perfumery Association

Their tests suggested the chemicals had seeped into the tissue after being applied to the skin.

"This is the first study to show their accumulation in human tissues," said Dr Darbre.

"It demonstrates that if people are exposed to these chemicals (parabens), then the chemicals will accumulate in their bodies."

'Drive tumours'

Dr Darbre said there may be reason for people to be concerned about the findings.

"Their detection in human breast tumours is of concern since parabens have been shown to be able to mimic the action of the female hormone oestrogen," she said.

"Oestrogen can drive the growth of human breast tumours. It would therefore seem especially prudent to consider whether parabens should continue to be used in such a wide range of cosmetics applied to the breast area including deodorants."

Dr Philip Harvey, European editor of the journal, said the findings should be interpreted cautiously.

"Further work is required to examine any association between oestrogenic and other chemicals in underarm cosmetics and breast cancer."

We have an enormous amount of information which supports the safety of these chemicals and their use in cosmetics
Chris Flower
Cosmetic Toiletry & Perfumery Association

Chris Flower, director general of the UK's Cosmetic Toiletry & Perfumery Association, welcomed the study.

"It is welcome additional information and we will want to examine the findings in detail," he told BBC News Online.

"However, parabens have a very, very good safety profile. We have an enormous amount of information which supports the safety of these chemicals and their use in cosmetics."


Delyth Morgan of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: "This extremely small study does not demonstrate a direct causal link between deodorant or antiperspirant use and developing breast cancer.

"Further research is needed to establish the source of the chemicals found in the breast tumour samples and what, if any, the relationship is to breast cancer."

A spokesman for the UK's Department of Trade and Industry said government scientists would examine the findings.

"Parabens are approved for use in the UK and in Europe and all the information we have suggests they are safe to use.

"However, British scientists will examine this study."

Dr Richard Sullivan, head of clinical programmes at Cancer Research UK, said there was no evidence that deodorants were linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

He said the latest study was very small, and had by no means produced conclusive results.

"The increased incidence we are seeing of breast cancer can be explained by many other factors," he said

Health-Report Comment:

Well here we go again. We have been warning people about the potential toxic effects of parabens for ages and how the increase in breast cancer and all cancers could be directly attributed to chemicals in the body. (This includes of course the shocking revelations that HRT was directly responsible for another 20,000 women to contract cancer recently.)  Not just from using underarm deodorants either. Virtually all so-called "skin Care" products have dangerous chemicals in them. Parabens are just one of a large bunch of toxic chemicals that no-one has any idea of what the long term effects are if you use them every day on your skin.

The hollow platitudes of reassurance from the chemical industry are starting to sound like a stuck record as more and more damning evidence is mounting against them and their toxic assault on the human species. Despite what they say, the studies have never been done on the long-term effects of any of these chemicals let alone the effects of perhaps ten or twenty or 100 chemicals interacting in the body.


If you want to be free of all the toxic chemicals that vested interests tell you are "good" for your skin and "safe" don't use them! Period! The only safe products we recommend for use on the skin are Certified Organic products that are made to food grade standards. Yes you could eat them - because they are 100% free of all synthetic chemicals.

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The toxicity problems with parabens have been known for some time as can be easily seen from this transcript from http://website.lineone.net/~mwarhurst/parabens.html If you would like more in depth factual information on the toxic effects of many common chemicals this is a very good site to visit.

By Dr A. Michael Warhurst, an environmental chemist who works for WWF in Brussels



This group of chemicals are used as preservatives in cosmetics, and are antibacterial agents in some antibacterial toothpastes. Four main parabens are in use: methyl, ethyl, propyl and butylparabens; many products will have 2 or more of these chemicals as part of a preservative system. As preservatives in cosmetics are on the label in the EU it is easy to find out which products contain these chemicals.

Oestrogenic effects

In late 1998 John Sumpter's group at Brunel University, UK, published a paper identifying parabens as oestrogen mimics (Routledge et al., 1998). The authors state:

"Given their use in a wide range of commercially available topical preparations, it is suggested that the safety in use of these chemicals should be reassessed, with particular attention being paid to estimation of the actual levels of systemic exposure of humans exposed to these chemicals. The acquisition of such data is a prerequisite to the derivation of reliable estimates of the possible human risk of exposure to parabens."

In a screen with a human estrogen receptor expressed by yeast cells the potency of the parabens group was butylparaben>propylparaben>ethylparaben>methylparaben. When methylparaben and butylparaben were injected into immature or ovariectomized rats, butylparaben led to an increase in uterus weights (an oestrogenic effect), whereas methylparaben had no detectable effect.

Another study examining effects on excurrent ducts of the rat testis through puberty to adulthood found no effects from butylparabens (Fisher et al, 1999); however this used much lower doses than the Routledge work.

Industry response

The European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association COLIPA stated that the Routledge work was 'irrelevant' as 'Parabens are hydrolysed in the skin and we have data to show that none are entering the blood stream', and said that the Industry had no plans to follow up the work.

Professor Sumpter replied that

'What we really want to know is what effects may come from low exposures over a long period of time. That is the realistic exposure mechanism' (ENDS, 1999a).

AstraZeneca toxicologist Dr John Ashby, who is very engaged in the science and policy debates on endocrine disruption, said at a conference in March that he had decided not to use parabens-containing products on his young daughter (ENDS, 1999b).

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