Parabens are commonly used in foods and cosmetics as preservatives. Back in 2004, Dr. Philippa Darbre of the University of Reading published a study reporting that many breast cancer tumors contained parabens. This study resulted in an unwarranted fear of parabens based on the claim by Dr. Darbre that these preservatives have estrogen-like activity which has been linked to breast cancer. However, Dr. Joe Schwarcz, Director of McGill University s Office for Science and Society in Montreal, and ACSH friend, points out that the estrogenic activity of parabens is thousands of times less than that of estrogenic substances ¦or indeed of the estrogen produced naturally in the body. And regulatory agencies have dismissed Darbre s study.
Yet, parabens are back on the firing line again. Dr. Schwarcz says, One would ¦presume that the inclusion of preservatives to ensure a safe product would be seen by consumers as a positive feature ¦but such is not the case. Preservatives are regarded by many as nasty chemicals that are to be avoided. For this reason, many cosmetic companies strive to use natural substances in their products which have the unjustified public image as being safer. This is not the case, as the safety and efficacy of a chemical does not depend on whether it was made by a chemist in a lab, or by Mother Nature in a bush.
And the use of these natural preservatives is precisely the reason why a contaminated children s sunscreen was recently recalled. The bottom line is that contamination would not have occurred if parabens had been used instead of an ineffective combination of natural preservatives. Dr. Schwarcz concludes, The demonization of synthetic preservatives has led not only to the glorification of less-effective natural products but to a host of preservative-free ones as well.
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