Two of my recent Care2 blogs covered how and why to make your own homemade personal care products. I included some rules and tools to help us all make our own home brews, in Homemade Pomegranate Beauty Scrub. I also suggested that you be on the lookout for certain highly questionable ingredients that could be problematic, in 11 Beauty Uses for Coconut.
Now it has become apparent that it is even more important to read personal care product labels. A new study in The Journal of Applied Toxicology has made us more aware of the dangers of parabens, a class of estrogen-mimicking chemicals which are found in numerous drugs, foods, personal care products and cosmetics. In the study, “Parabens detection in different zones of the human breast consideration of source and implications of findings,” researchers discussed the possible role of parabens in causing breast cancer and childhood disease.
Once you start reading labels, you will find that parabens are found in thousands of personal care products on the market. Sayer Ji, founder and chair of GreenMedInfo.com, has an excellent article which focuses on the findings of The Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust: Human Hormones Are Being Eclipsed by Synthetic Chemicals (March 2012). Here we find that scientists from the Breast Cancer Prevention Centre have discovered five paraben esters in human breast tissue samples, collected from 40 mastectomies from women with primary breast cancer.
The report discussed by Sayer Ji reveals three main points:
1) The ester form of parabens found within the breast tissue samples indicated a dermal route of exposure, as would occur through skin care products and underarm deodorants.
2) The paraben residues were found at concentrations up to 1 million times higher than the estrogen (estradiol) levels naturally found in human breast tissue.
3) Propylparaben was found in the highest concentration in the underarm area (axilla), where underarm deodorants are most used and breast cancer prevalence is at its highest.
Meanwhile, our watchdog organization WHO (The World Health Organization) considers the estrogenic properties of parabens to be a low toxicological risk due to it being 10,000 to 100,000 times less potent than estradiol (E2). However, the one millionfold higher levels found within the sampled breast tissue clearly indicate that the magnitude of exposure more than compensates for the reduction in potency.
Sayer Ji points out that the new study raises a highly disturbing possibility:
“For exposures in children, concern has already been raised that ‘the estrogenic burden of parabens and their metabolites in blood may exceed the action of endogenous estradiol in childhood and the safety margin for propylparaben is very low when comparing worst-case exposure.” (Boberg et al., 2010)