Parabens and Phthalates: the "Debatable Chemicals"
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Parabens and Phthalates: the "Debatable Chemicals"

the on-going debate as to the safety of phthalates and parabens in various products

As I washed my face this morning, I was reading the information at the back of the bottle of the facial wash I was using which says that the product was not tested on animals and that the product does not contain parabens and phthalates. Now I believe I know why the said product was not tested on animals but then I am not aware of the chemicals parabens and phthalates and their effect on the human body to warrant the information that these said chemicals are not included in the facial wash that I was using. And so I told myself I should take note of these chemicals and know more of their effects to the body.

Phthalate I found out are the dialkyl or alkyl aryl esters of phthalic acid. When added to plastics, phthalates let the long polyvinyl molecules to slide against each other increasing the flexibility of plastics. These chemicals were introduced in the 1920’s replacing the odorous and volatile chemical camphor as a plasticizer. These phthalates however are also now used in a wide array of products from pharmaceuticals to lubricants, paints, textile and personal care items or cosmetics.

Parabens on the other hand are used as preservatives in most cosmetic products. The most common parabens used in cosmetic products are methylparaben, propylparaben and butlyparaben although these can be used in combination with other types of preservatives so as to minimize the use of these chemicals in the preservation of the cosmetic products. Preservatives are used in the process of making cosmetic products so as to protect against microbial growth and ultimately to protect the consumers.

Due to the wide use of the chemicals phthalates and parabens as additives to various products, tests were then conducted as to the safety of these chemicals. Results from said tests were not very positive and were even reported to cause some types of cancer such as the development of breast cancer. High concentration of these chemicals were observed to be related to hormonal changes, birth defects as well as damage to liver and the reproductive system of test animals. These results then prompted banning the use of these chemicals in certain products in some countries.

Conversely, there were also researches made on these same chemicals which found no correlation whatsoever of parabens and phthalates in the development of health problems in humans. As such, there is still an ongoing debate as to the safety of the presence of these chemicals in the various products that we use.

The “pro” parabens and phthlates assert that the tests made on lab animals were in unusually high concentration while the “anti” parabens and phthalates stress that tests were also conducted in humans and the results also indicated harmful effects of these substances to the body. As the debate goes on and seemingly becoming politicized whether or not these chemicals are indeed bad or safe for human consumption, we the consumers are left to fend for ourselves on which side to believe.

Now we can always side with the government agencies who have conducted extensive research and proven safe these chemicals but then there will always be that nagging thought of “what-if” the ill effects of these chemicals are true? For this conundrum that consumers find themselves in, it is probably always better to err on the side of good health. It is better to have the peace of mind knowing that the product you are using does not contain “debated chemicals”.

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