I feel like I have gone in circles for the last two hours trying to pin down my feelings about Parabens. I know, I'm strange, spending all that time chasing facts, near facts, half-truths... but I was determined to make a conclusion that was backed by fact about these chemicals and post it on my blog.
Here is some of what I have found:
From Wikipedia: Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. 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/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.
From FDA: FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. However, the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area. If FDA determines that a health hazard exists, the agency will advise the industry and the public, and will consider its legal options under the authority of the FD&C Act in protecting the health and welfare of consumers.
From Breast Cancer Fund: Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as an antifungal agent, preservative and antimicrobial in creams, lotions, ointments and other cosmetics, including underarm deodorants. They are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.
And through my research I was brought to the Cosmetic Ingrediant Review: Mission: The Cosmetic Ingredient Review thoroughly reviews and assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased, and expert manner, and publishes the results in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. And I found this report put together by them. Here is an excerpt:
Chemical Disposition, Metabolism, and Toxicokinetics
Rabbits orally given butylparaben (0.4 or 0.8 g/kg [2 or 4 mmol/kg]) excreted 0.2-0.9% of the ester by 24 hours. Within the same period, 25-39% 4-HBA, 15-29% p-hydroxyhippuric acid, 5-8% p-carboxyphenyl glucuronide, 10-18% p-hydroxybenzoyl glucuronide, and 7-12% p-carboxyphenyl sulfate were recovered.
In dogs, intravenous (i.v.) injection of butylparaben (50 mg/kg [0.26 mmol/kg]) and oral administration of butylparaben (1000 mg/kg [5.148 mmol/kg]) resulted in a 48 and 40% recovery, respectively, of the administered dose in the urine as the 4-HBA conjugate of glucuronic acid within 30 hours. In a similar study in which dogs were given an i.v. injection of butylparaben (100 mg/kg [0.515 mmol/kg]), pure ester was recovered in the brain, spleen, and pancreas, and high concentrations of metabolites were detected in the liver and kidneys.
Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have been conducted reporting the permeability of butylparaben through skin. In these studies, butylparaben usually exhibited low penetration, retention in the epidermis, and/or hydrolysis in the skin.
And this report goes on to include chinese hamsters, rats, mice.... and suddenly I found myself majorly depressed... right back in my Gulf Oil Spill state of being....
And, on top of all of this, surfing these web sites, I found heaps of other things that I had no clue about and was reminded of others that I felt just as strongly about (like formaldehyde in baby shampoos... please buy castille hand made soap as an alternative). And here is am again, feeling like an extremeist, standing on my soap box shouting the warnings and knowing that when you hit that point, people stop hearing and start shaking their heads about how sad that crazy person is. But the point I want to make is that being aware is the most important part of all of this. It does not mean you have to radically change your life, but it does mean you are armed to make decisions when shopping in this chemically laden world.
Oh, I almost forgot, please check out the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.