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Seattle Beauty™ Tip: Common cosmetic ingredient butylparaben may have endocrine disrupting effects

By Connie Wan, P.h.D | July 21st, 2017

I’ve always been fascinated by the generally observed phenomenon of human fertility decrease over the past two decades. Many endocrine disruptive compounds have been blamed ranging from bisphenol A in plastic bottles, phthalates plasticizer in plastic food and beverage containers to parabens in cosmetics and personal care products.

Parabens are a class of compounds that are widely used as preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Chemically, they are a series of para-hydroxybenzoates or esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid (also known as 4-hydroxybenzoic acid). Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical or parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.

Parabens have been the subject of several scientific studies, because they have long been suspected of having endocrine disrupting effects. The results have led to a ban on the use of some parabens in foods and cosmetics in the EU in 2015. However, the same EU regulation permitted the continued use of two preservatives, Propylparaben and Butylparaben, while increasing the maximum concentration of these two preservatives from previously allowed limit of 0.4% when used individually and 0.8% when mixed with other esters, to 0.14%, when used individually or together.

Previous studies have shown that one of the permitted compounds, butylparaben, reduces sperm count in male rats that have been exposed to the substance prenatally.  In a new study from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, endocrine disrupting effects have also been found in both male and female rats that have been exposed to butylparaben prenatally. In addition to reduced sperm quality, other observed effects in male rats included changes to the prostate as well as the testicles’ ability to produce hormones. In female rats the effects included changes in breast tissue and ovary weight. Some of the effects were only observed at high doses. However, sperm quality was affected at all studied doses. The lead researcher stated that overall, the study results suggest that butylparaben has more negative effects on reproductive health than previously thought.

There is no doubt in my mind that there will be more researches coming out on various preservatives and additives and their biological effects on human. In addition, it is common consensus among scientists that our bodies are constantly flushed with a cocktails these chemicals, many of which have endocrine disruptive effects. I have long stopped buying canned food (because the plastic lining leaches both bisphenol A and phthalate into the food content) and bottled water and have long swapped the plastic food containers in my home with glass ones. Maybe I am paranoid, maybe research will eventually show that it’s all for nothing. But for now, until that day, I am not willing to take risk on my growing son. Will you risk yours?

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference: Boberg, M. Axelstad, T. Svingen, K. Mandrup, S. Christiansen, A. M. Vinggaard, U. Hass. Multiple Endocrine Disrupting Effects in Rats Perinatally Exposed to Butylparaben. Toxicological Sciences, 2016; 152 (1): 244 DOI: 10.1093/toxsci/kfw079
Source: Informed Nutrition

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