Are these preservatives in shampoo, deodorant, and other products safe?

Parabens are safe for our products
Parabens are not safe for our products
Started by
Catherine Thorbecke

The Issue

Parabens are synthetic chemical preservatives found in millions of personal products including shampoos, toothpastes and soaps. The use of parabens has become popular, as many companies and their consumers benefit from their cost-effective preservation. Evidence has mounted that parabens applied to the skin can enter the bloodstream, with a recent study finding that they are present in 99% of American adults’ urine. Despite the benefits of parabens, people have begun to question whether they are safe for use in our everyday products.

Most Divisive Question

3 stories vs 3 stories

Remaining Questions

4 questions total

Final Thoughts

What people think
Pro: Parabens
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    Yunah Baeg

    The evidence that parabens are linked to cancer is very inconclusive, and there is no evidence in the causal relationship between the two. Also, the findings suggest that the correlation between parabens and the function of the human endocrine system is very weak. Until there is more evidence that parabens are detrimental to humans, I don't see any reason to stop its use.
    Additionally, if the use of parabens was to stop, scientists should come up with an alternative preservative that is as effective and cost saving.

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    Molly Banta

    While some claim parabens to cause cancer or disrupt the human reproductive systems, it seems most of these studies merely show minimal correlation and do not firmly establish parabens as the causal feature. I think more research must be done, but considering the immense prevalence and utility to parabens, they should stay apart of our cosmetics until they are proven to actually be dangerous.

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  • 12ddb88ae748838c946ec4a1118f0864
    Jordan Grossman
    Founder of Niaterra News

    There doesn't actually seem to be any compelling evidence that parabens are actually anything to worry about. The reason is that the worst thing you can say about them is that they mimic estrogen, but they do so at 1/10,000th the strength of estrogen. So, the exposure levels are of critical importance in assessing risk. Most things will cause problems if the dosage is enough — that includes water, which can kill you!

    There is a claim that they cause cancer, because elevated levels of parabens have been found in tumors. I don't see what that has to do with anything, though. A cancer tissue's ability to absorb a chemical is not the same thing as that chemical actually causing cancer. It doesn't seem to make any more sense than saying that because a sponge is good at sopping up liquids, liquids must have invented sponges.

    Parabens have been used for a long time. Studies haven't found anything conclusive, which suggests to me that there isn't anything to worry about because negative effects are so small or don't exist.

    If new data suggests otherwise, then it's always worth a look, but there isn't a lack of evidence because we haven't been looking.

    The bottom line: using parabens sparingly should be fine. When they're not really needed, it's always best to be on the safer side though. It's bothersome that they're as pervasive as they are, and may not be adding enough value to justify its popularity.

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  • 66e376040ea88b6aa5463bc3227560cb
    Lea Thali

    While there is no conclusive evidence against parabens, there are some concerns with using these preservatives. The breast cancer studies were very small and correlational, and so I am not overly concerned about parabens being carcinogenic.

    However, it does worry me that parabens may affect our endocrine systems, even though there does not seem to be any direct negative impact from this.

    I will err on the side of caution, and say that one ought to avoid parabens when possible, but I do not think the evidence is there to support banning them all together.

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Anti: Parabens
  • Picture
    Catherine Thorbecke
    Nia Creator

    The evidence against parabens seems overwhelmingly limited and inconclusive. That said, however, not using products with parabens is a relatively small sacrifice for a potentially very large benefit if there is even a morsel of truth to the studies linking parabens to endocrine disruption or breast cancer. The conclusion I've drawn from this Nia is that more research needs to be done on this topic, but when you are dealing with literally life or death diseases I would rather not take the risk of being wrong.

    The utility of parabens is undeniable--they are present in a myriad of products that are necessary for even the most basic level of personal hygiene--but I think part of that might be in the interest not of the individual but of large companies that mass produce low-cost products. By choosing to buy paraben-free products I would be doing a small part to vote for more research into alternatives which is something I would like to see.

    Before reading the research in this Nia, I was very wary about anything labeled "Paraben Free," thinking this was mainly a marketing gimmick, but in the future I will probably look out for these products.

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  • Picture
    Qiao Xue

    Although there is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that parabens have direct connections with cancer, it does not mean that parabens are safe. Also, some have totally showed that parabens could disrupt human endocrine system.

    Cancer is a special disease which has high death rate.
    Therefore, if we have already had the concerns on if parabens may cause cancer, we should not use parabens anymore. Compared with the extreme high risk, the possible benefits of parabens are not worthy.

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