bottles in a science lab labeled with different parabens

The case against paraben preservatives in personal care and beauty products is mounting with a new study from SUNY Downstate Medical Center's School of Public Health linking them to reproductive defects in newborns.

The study found “a link between women with higher levels of butylparaben, which is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics, and the following birth outcomes: shorter gestational age at birth, decreased birth weight, and increased odds of preterm birth."

Butylparaben is an oil-soluble preservative of the paraben family (which commonly include all, methylparabens, ethylparabens, and propylparabens). The SUNY study also claimed that propylparaben is responsible for decreased body length at birth.

The cosmetic industry body, the CIR Expert Panel, has long maintained that parabens are safe used in low percentages (.04% - .08%). However, in 2015 a scientist at UC Berkeley into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk.

The Berkeley researchers looked at human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which tends to grow and spread aggressively, and the impact of exposure to parabens. The increased stimulation of breast cancer cell growth was significant and the paraben dose was very low. The conclusion was that parabens may be more potent at lower doses than previous studies have suggested. (source).

Parabens have been controversial since a 2004 study conducted by Dr. Philippa Darbre found traces of parabens in breast cancer tissues. The study was criticized for not demonstrating cause and effect, only the mere presence of parabens. In 2012, Darbre researched a larger sample and claims that she not only repeated her 2004 results but found that paraben levels in the samples were now four times higher.

The SUNY study also singled out triclosan as a reproductive toxin. Triclosan is restricted in personal care products in the EU.