Comparing health consequences of P-hydroxybenzoic acid esters (parabens) and other preservatives in the environment
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Parabens have been used as antimicrobial preservatives in multiple different types of products for decades, however relatively recent studies have caused concern as to whether their wide-use could be potentially harmful. The following paper reviews the extensive areas of human exposure, from mother to fetus, infants via breast milk, baby and child care products through adult personal care products, and other environmental sources. The potential impacts on human health are also discussed. Parabens predominantly impact biological systems as an endocrine disruptor not only by binding to the human Estrogen Receptor directly, but increasing the availability of naturally occurring 17β-estradiol, further potentiating the effect. Alternative antimicrobial preservatives are also discussed, along with their efficacies and potential health concerns. Common alternatives found in personal care products include phenoxyethanol, methylisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde releasers. Additionally, weak organic acids and plant-derived essential oils are also used in personal care products, but tend to be added more so to food products to prevent the growth of spoilage bacteria, fungi and mold. The potential for these alternatives to replace the use of parabens in personal care products, our greatest area of exposure, is very promising. If parabens in personal care products were replaced with a safe and effective alternative, then the other areas of environmental exposure would likely be negligible to produce any harm on society. Future investigation into the nuances of the various plant-derived essential oils and effective formulations for preservation, is likely the most promising solution, due to their mostly harmless nature. Lastly, the discussion of proposed future research in order to lead to a more definitive connection between paraben exposure and adverse health effects is presented.