oh noes, not the freakin’ freaky parabens again

or, a post on reading and how to read, partly via how not to read. Contains quite a lot of words (though it’s not one of my 2,500-3,000ers) and some pictures of more words.

Also, I’ve now officially lost count with regard to parabenamania on here.

Reiterating my own position: all the research data (and analysis thereof) I’ve seen points towards “jury still out, insufficient evidence” on the breast-cancer scare; and “caution” on application to small humans under about 3 years old, with skin barrier still under construction. With the further caveat of looking at dosage/percentage + formula as a whole.

Revised opinion, with some external data added in, just to keep us all up to date (this is copy-pasted from what I’ve just been a-saying over on MUA):

A couple of lighter-weight second-hand reports:

Latest EU legislative opinions on parabens (see further down for the NBBBs on the legal status of opinions):
October 2011 (this is the one that’s been discussed c/o intermediate sources, around the web):

Earlier ones (useful for reference if you’re reading that one above):

The main scientific research: c/o

More discussion of parabens and the debate around them (off MUA):

Adding my own 2c (re. use of parabens in areas other than armpits, ex. face):

Thinking of playing safe? Well now: barrier function on adults is very different from that (a.k.a. none to little, as the thing grows) in infants under 2-3. If I had a small child I’d avoid parabens: and about a billion other things: in those first 2-3 years of life, while the skin barrier is forming. But I’m an adult, with a fully functioning skin barrier. Even if my one is thin, it’s still there and a different beast from the infantile fledgling sort.

That’s basically already the approach in Denmark–no parabens on kids under 3, for skin barrier reasons–and re. one of the main proposals in the European Commission draft white paper under internet discussion.

But NB about what we’re looking at above, those EU links:

If you read the October 2011 document, you’ll see that it’s not final and binding: it’s a stage towards future further discussions and consultation, which would then be used (as advice, hence why it’s called “opinion”) in drafting future policy and proposals (i.e., proposed new legislation).

An “Opinion” has a different legal status from full EU law (“Directives,” “Regulations,” “Treaties”), in terms of compulsory compliance and enforcement, how binding it is. An Opinion’s not a law; that latter lot are. “Opinions” feed into them (in some cases, for this kind of scientific law, they’re the basis and the most important and sizeable part of a proposed law): draft, white paper, other stages, revisions, fact-checkings, external reviews, goes before European Parliament, voted/not into existence. After that, bear in mind too that some EU laws need to go through further stages (ratification, more process, voting) before becoming part of national legislation, in certain EU member states, depending on how their national system integrates EU law. So… it could be some considerable time before you see a member state
(a) reduce the permitted percentages of butyl- and methylparaben;
(b) ban the other five parabens (which are pretty uncommon in most decently-formulated skincare these days anyway);
(c) clamp down on the use of parabens in products for infants’ skin.

This c/o a new MUAer (welcome! of course and as usual!! even if I disagree and found the whole business hair-raising!!!) who did some posting on the Green and Skin Care Boards, as follows further down. Yes, there’s some ignorance, and some foolishness, but but but CUE IMPORTANT STUFF it’s well-meant and as far as I can see (which admittedly isn’t always too far, what with being very short-sighted) the intention is to reach out to others and help them. The error of sincerity, which is always excessive: as it stands in contrast to moderation, which must be balanced and take everything into account. Yes, that sometimes (on MUA, and especially the Green Board, read: frequently) translates to irrational/unreasoning pure emotion vs. rational/reasoned/reasonable.

The intention, anyway, is highly laudable. And it’s always nice to see a compatriot over on MUA, and to be able to talk to them from here on the other side of the world. Though, blinking heck, our country suffers enough in public opinion: let’s try not to feed xenophobic stereotyping and centuries of prejudice and abuse by acting and speaking (and I guess thinking, insofar as there’s intelligent thought going on) according to type like complete fuckwits, shall we? Go raibh maith agaibh …

Next stage, read SCCS/1446/11, then all the articles referred to therein (and in preceding SCCS Opinions), and of course lobby your own government in what you deem to be the right direction.

Back to our IrishAnesthetist; NB, for readers outside the UK and Ireland, the term might be confusing: “anesthetist” in these countries is used also for non-medical anaesthetic practitioners and anesthesiologist assistants / nurse anasthetists. From IA’s spelling of her name (and the content of her conributions thus far), I’m assuming she’s a nurse anesthetist rather than an anaesthesiologist registrar, you know, with a 4-5 year medical degree + 2 years’ foundation + at least 7 years’ specialist training, FRCA exam, etc… whole different kettle of fish. I’m making some pretty dramatic assumptions, mind you. We’ve plenty evidence for lawyers drunk-MUA-ing, and at least two chemists ( ♥ nitromusk), it wouldn’t surprise me in the least for there to be drunked doctors MUAing. Who knows. It’s a funny old world.

UPDATE on those comments–alas, in peril of going off topic:


ashleyanders 2/12/2012 5:44PM

And (excuse my spamming!) one more thing… looking at your reviews, I question your ethics on this. You seem to still be fine with using cosmetics that contain parabens simply because they work, at yet here you are trying to fear-monger everyone? I don’t quite get it. Are you also looking through all of your food purchases then? Growing your own food to ensure none contain parabens of any kind?

IrishAnesthetist 2/12/2012 7:45PM

There is certainly no need to be rude about it. All of the studies I am reading are from 2011 and 2012. I wasnt worried a whit about chemicals before then and am not interested in old outdated studies from 2004 or 2001. “Fear mongering” ? Not familiar with the term in spite of my graduate physics. Sorry to have been such a horror and get everyone’s dander up because of my obviously misguided opinion. I will certainly refrain from offering it again. Good Lord.

gingerrama 2/12/2012 8:09PM

guys, play nice: civil & civilised discussion board! @IA, it’s cool, stick around–it’s just chat 🙂

Also: “graduate physics”? I take it that doesn’t mean “I have a PhD in physics” (see further above re. ambiguities around “anesthetist”) but something like “I once accidentally walked into a graduate physics class because I got lost/couldn’t read my schedule/miswrote it in the first place, and I sat down, and I had to stay there till the end because I knew so little about the class I was supposed to be in that I didn’t realise I’d made a mistake until the end of the class.” Or something along these lines. Also, it’s an online persona so bears no necessary relation to real life and qualifications… though so far, the sincerity’s either been genuine or a BAFTA/Oscar-worthy performance.

Because otherwise, if this is a person who really has a PhD in physics, as well as a degree in medicine plus the ≥ 9 years’ training afterwards: that’s worrying.

Actually, I admit that my first reaction was:

Seriously? For real? What is the world coming to?

and then I deleted it and substituted the “play nicely” remark. Thinking there’s no way that’s possible, not in this universe…


 IrishAnesthetist 2/12/2012 7:40PM


gingerrama 2/12/2012 8:03PM

yes, I’d seen that one too 🙂 there’s still a couple of issues though

1) a problem of proof: coincidence vs. correlation vs. causation

2) the source, time of exposure, and mechanism.

Iff (if and ony if) methyparaben is responsible for the breast cancers studied there (and I’m noting for the record that breast cancer isn’t this simple + there’s more than one cause and route of those forms better known), where did they come from, how did they enter the system, and when?

There’s a big difference between the following cases: and it’s very important to understanding that difference, and what the exact nature of the methylparaben/breast cancer connection is: this is where we need more metadata studies / meta-analysis articles. Important, to understanding how cancer works and working on prevention and cure. Which we’d all agree (I hope???) is vital.

The different situations:
(a) a subject is exposed to parabens through topical creams etc. when an infant

(b) they are exposed to them when an adult in skincare and cosmetic products applied to the breast area

(c) they are exposed to them through applicationelsewhere, all over, from mascara to foot-cream

(d) the parabens were ingested: most commonly through food (permitted preservative in low doses).

Those questions still remain open, and have not been answered by any of the studies or meta-data analyses I’ve seen.


Oh no!

Profile page for ‘IrishAnesthetist’ was not found

MUA suicide 😦 Which is always sad, no matter what the cause, process, trigger, circumstances. I know some might see it as a battle won; others as a failure to sustain your side of a dispute. When discourse turns to incomprehension and war, that’s always sad and bad: a failure of community (and anarcha-feminism and gynocracy), a hollow victory only for banal juvenile triumphalism. Putting grand conclusions on truth and justice to one side, an end result of human unhappiness is always lamentable and to be lamented: a tragedy.

Here’s to hoping the case won’t spawn MUA-hate, or indeed exacerbate fear and loathing of decent civil discourse, argument, reasoning, and otherwise acting, interacting, and reacting like grown-up intelligent humans.

There had been a whiff of the martyr here: and we all know, all too well in recent years (and for longer back in Ireland), that’s not a good sign. Noting also for the record that Tibetan religious self-immolation this ain’t…

One comment

  1. Phil

    Bummer she removed the profile.. probably back under another name soon.
    Didn’t even get halfway with my reading, there’s too much to read ><

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