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2015-12-23

Cosmetic Chemicals Wrecking Havoc in Mammals

A new study highlighting the toxic chemicals in cosmetic products has found the negative effects go far beyond just those who apply them to their own skin. The study, points to a growing body of research supporting claims that compounds from such products are ending up in marine creatures such as otters and dolphins, that come into contact with such pollution.

Evidence has also come to light these compounds are being found in polar bears – creatures that invariably live thousands of miles away from the sources of such pollution. The study hopes to throw light on how far cosmetic compounds such as parabens can be transported by waterways and
the sea, and what effects varying levels of the compounds as well as repeated exposure can have on mammals.

Studies on parabens, for example, have provided evidence that they can have an estrogenic effect in humans and that this can cause adverse physical symptoms in males due to an accumulation of the compounds in fat cells under the skin, or the early puberty we are seeing in very young girls, and the potential for these estrogenic compounds to influence estrogen-dependent cancers.

Building on this evidence in humans, the pretext for this study is to find out more about how parabens are processed by mammals and about the accumulative effect in their tissue. The study found that of the six parabens studied, it was methylparaben that was predominantly found in the assessed marine
tissue samples. In particular, the highest traces of methylparaben were found in the livers of bottlenose dolphins from Sarasota Bay, Florida, with a level of 865ng/g (wet weight).

Likewise, the predominant paraben metabolite was 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid (4-HB), which showed up in all the mammal tissue samples. The 4-HB metabolite was reported to be in the hundreds of thousands of ng/g in samples taken from Florida bottlenose dolphins - the highest ever reported - while trace amounts were also found in polar bears.

While the research team has stressed their belief that the amounts of parabens found in the mammal tissue sample may not put their lives in danger, they want to now carry out further research to determine the effects they may have on development and growth.

Will natural cosmetics be better? That depends. Most natural cosmetics won't use parabens, but many do use things like titanium dioxide and other harmful (yet "natural" compounds). In the past year, I remember reading another study that showed the titanium dioxide (used extensively in natural sunscreens) is causing local destruction of the marine ecosystem, particularly around popular beaches where many people will wear sunscreen, enter the ocean/lake, where the titanium dioxide will wash off (hence the need to reapply sunscreen). In this example, titanium dioxide mixed with UV light from the sun causes oxidation that has a significant negative effect on the environment around beaches.

So for those that may receive cosmetics as Christmas presents over the next few days, consider returning them back to the store in exchange for versions that are safer for your health, and gentler on the environment. As conscious consumers, let's stop supporting the toxic chemical industry. Unethical corporations need to know that their short-term profits are NOT more important than your health, or that of our planet.

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Source: Elevated Accumulation of Parabens and their Metabolites in Marine Mammals from the United States Coastal Waters

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