Parabens – Part II

Sparing you any pithy comments, here is an article from which can be found here:

New data on parabens suggests no adverse hormonal effect on the body
By Katie Bird, 18-Nov-2009
Related topics: Formulation & Science

The industry awaits the judgement on parabens following the release of further data on skin absorption and the distribution of the chemicals in the body.

Florian Schellauf from industry trade body Colipa presented the findings from a recent study on rats at a conference organised by the Scandinavian Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCANCOS) in Sweden.

The study was performed at the request of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) (formerly the SCCP) for more data on the longer parabens, propyl- and butylparaben, following research that claimed the commonly used preservatives may affect the reproductive and hormonal systems of the body.

According to the study data presented at the SCANCOS conference, in rats, parabens are well absorbed after oral administration but only partially absorbed after dermal exposure.

In addition, the data suggests that the compounds are fully metabolised before they enter the blood stream.

Blood plasma tests highlighted only the presence of a paraben metabolite PHBA (p-hydroxybenzoic acid) and no concentrations of the parabens themselves, regardless of which paraben was used and how it was applied (oral, dermal or subcutaneous).

According to Schellauf, PHBA is not known to have any estrogenic effects and is found widely in plants and human food, so trace exposure in the human organism poses no health risk.

“The study confirms the results of a number of research studies, which concluded from their work that parabens are metabolised rapidly and to a large extent in living organisms and therefore cannot exhibit any adverse effects,” said industry trade body Colipa.

The study will be submitted shortly to the SCCS, which will have to come to a decision on whether this new data means the acceptance of methyl-, ethyl, propyl- and butyl-parabens as preservatives in cosmetics products, should remain unaltered.

According to Maria Lodén founder of Sweden-based consulting firm Eviderm and a member of SCANCOS, a decision from the SCCS can’t come soon enough.

Anti-paraben stance

A number of consumer groups, environmental organisations and some industry members have taken an anti-paraben stance which may not be based on respectable scientific evidence, she said.

For example, the Nordic Swan, an environmental label well known in Denmark and Sweden has said products aiming to gain its label cannot contain parabens. Following the release of this new data and the SCCS’s forthcoming opinion, Lodén believes the Swan label should change their criteria and allow the compounds.

“My interpretation of the current data is that, in addition to methyl- and ethylparaben, also propyl- and butylparaben will represent the safest option for preserving cosmetics in the future,” she said.

“The society anxiously await the final SCCS report on the issue to reduce dissemination of misleading information on parabens,” Lodén added.

Me again –

WOW! It looks like scientists may not have been lying to you!  Of course I blame the Media…

1,4-Dioxane – Are we all going to die?

So there I was a few months back, blissfully washing my hair.  (Yes, I still have some.  There’s not much there, but it is all mine!)  When my attention was brought to an article proclaiming that many name brand organic shampoos contained 1,4-dioxane a listed carcinogenic material.

My first thought was, “Now I know why all my hair is falling out!”

My first thought was incorrect.

So, let’s talk about 1,4-dioxane and what it means to us.

What is 1,4-dioxane?  Looking to the US Department of Health and Human Services, we find that 1,4 dioxane is used as a solvent in processing other materials and is used as a reagent in laboratories.  One use common to our lives is when manufacturers treat vegetable oils with 1,4-dioxane to help them function as a surfactant.  So that’s where it might show up in organic or natural shampoo.

Where is it? You know, it can show up just about anywhere.  It has been found in tap water, in contaminated air, contaminated food, cosmetics and more!

Cosmetics?  Yep.  It can appear as a trace contaminant because of reasons we talked about earlier.

Wait!  You’re a chemist!  I sure am!  And I do believe in better living through modern science, but that doesn’t mean I support all things chemical.  There is an old saying that goes “The dose makes the poison.”  For example, belladonna – a little inflames, a lot kills.  1,4-dioxane – a lot can cause liver and kidney damage, a little, well we just don’t know what happens.

Can I avoid it?  Sure!  If you would like to avoid 1,4-dioxane, avoid all products that have some of the following words: PEG, Polyethylene, Polyethylene Glycol, Polyoxyethylene, -eth or -oxynol-.  Many chemical manufacturers have added a simple cost-effective process that removes any remaining contamination, but there is no way the consumer can know from whom the shampoo guys buy their chemicals.  Call the 800 number or send an email or letter to the maker of your products and ask.  I would answer it.  They should too.

Will it cause cancer?  Tough question.  It does pose a risk in animals but not aquatic ones apparently.   Fish and plants do not seem to accumulate it.  There are no studies or tests done in humans.  Just hasn’t happened.  The risk is rather unknown.

HUH?  What few studies have been done show that there is a generally accepted safe exposure limit of 10 ppm of 1,4-dioxane.  It is listed as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.  That means it hasn’t been proved conclusively, but the likelihood is high. 

Now what do we do?  Well, you can avoid cosmetics that have chemical names like those outlined above, if you live near a hazardous waste dump, don’t drink the water and don’t let your children play near the dump.  Especially after a good rain.  1,4-dioxane is stable in water.  Drink uncontaminated bottled water.

You can ask your doctor to test you for exposure, but he probably won’t have the equipment.  However he can collect the samples from you (urine or blood) and ship them to a lab.  But it has to be quick.  1,4-dioxane and its byproducts leave the human body fairly quickly.  So if you think you have been exposed to high amounts, test within a couple days.

Friend or Foe?  The jury is out on this one.  I will call it personal choice.  I know that my products use uncontaminated surfactants.  But if you aren’t sure, I would recommend that you avoid it.

Questions?  Send me a note!  I will answer, maybe privately but very likely in this column.  Let me know if you need your identity hidden for privacy.