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June 4 2019

Two Truths & a Lie: Parabens

by Julie Gunlock

Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.”

Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about Parabens?

A: Parabens protect your eyes and skin by keeping skin care products and cosmetics bacteria-free.

B: Parabens are an estrogen disruptor that causes breast cancer.

C: Both the FDA and the CDC have declared parabens to be safe when used within recommended concentrations.

Let’s take these statements one at a time:

A: Truth!

Parabens are man-made chemicals often used in small amounts as preservatives in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, some foods, and even some beverages. Preservatives, like parabens, are essential in cosmetics because they prevent bacterial growth and prolong the product’s shelf life. Bacteria are opportunistic and because cosmetics are used repeatedly, preservatives are critical to protect delicate skin and eyes from bacteria-causing infections and diseases.

B: Lie!

The safety of parabens was initially put into question in 2004 when a researcher published a study linking breast cancer to the use of antiperspirants containing parabens. This study is now widely considered to be junk science. In fact, in 2012, the researcher who published the study retracted the paper stating that 99 percent of healthy breast tissue samples contained at least one paraben.

As the name suggests, chemical preservatives that are used properly preserve consumer goods so that they're safer and can stay on store shelves longer. That's good news for consumers because the use of preservatives drives down prices. If manufacturers were prevented from using these ingredients, products would have to be made in small batches and much of it would have to be destroyed if it wasn't sold or used within that small safety window. It is also important to understand that manufacturers only use trace amounts of chemical preservatives to get the job done--levels that aren't harmful to humans.

C: Truth!

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration agree that parabens are safe if used properly by manufacturers. Manufacturers are required to carry out safety tests on their products and must meet FDA standards. The FDA can take action against a cosmetic on the market that does not comply with the laws the agency enforces.

While the FDA continues to study the safety of chemical preservatives, they have publicly stated that they “do not have information showing that parabens as they are used in cosmetics have an effect on human health.” This echoes the CDC’s findings that “…parabens are safe for use in cosmetics…” and that “…a measurable amount of parabens in urine does not imply that they cause an adverse health effect.”

In addition, in 2012, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an independent panel of scientific and medical experts, reaffirmed the safety of parabens in response to a formal request by the cosmetic industry to re-examine the safety of parabens.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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