Chances are that if you live in Denmark you will have heard of parabens – if you live elsewhere, unless you have a sharp eye and a good memory, you probably will not have heard of them.
Why is this then? Well, before I answer the above statement, let us look at the structure of parabens and then find out how they are used:
Image kindly copied according to the licence at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paraben-2D-skeletal.png
‘R’ can be any alkyl group.
The functional groups / different parts of the molecule contains are a benzene ring, an alcohol group and an ester group. You could also think of them as being esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid.
Parabens have extensive anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and because of this property, they are used as man-made preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Parabens due however occur naturally in nature (for example, methyl paraben is found in blueberries).
If you have a sharp eye you may have seen ‘paraben’ listed as an ingredient in a bottle of hair conditioner or shaving foam. Conversely, you may have also seen that the hair conditioner or shaving foam was ‘paraben free’. It was this ‘paraben free’ labelling that first caught my eye. Why was a product being advertised NOT containing something?
A little bit of digging and research on the internet revealed that there has been a link made between breast cancer and parabens. I should stress, that this is not conclusive (not even a casual ink has been established) and on-going tests are being carried out. The link was suggested because it was found that breast tumours contained parabens.
However, as with most things, the devil is in the detail. A small sample had been taken (only 20 tumors) and the amount detected was miniscule – 20 nanograms per gram. Studies of parabens with rodents have concluded that they are virtually non-toxic, although it should also be appreciated that not harming rodents does not rule out a problem in humans.
Image kindly reproduced according to the licence at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shampoo.jpg
What is known is that parabens cause some allergic reactions. There is also a very weak link between parabens mimicking the effect of estrogen.
Linknig back to the first paragraph of this article, the uncertainty with regards to parabens has led to Denmark banning the use of parabens in lotions and cosmetic products for children under the age of three.
CAUTION: One of the dangers of carrying out online research is the validity of information is not secure. I have tried really hard to make this article as unbiased as possible but if you feel that something is unfair, incorrect or biased, please let me know and I will ensure that the information is removed or changed.
This article was written using the following websites as primary sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraben
As ever, any comments that you have will be gratefully received.