At its most recent meeting, held on March 5 and 6, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review reaffirmed that parabens — preservatives used in cosmetics and personal care products — are safe.

The chemicals have been controversial for the past few years. Several non-governmental organizations, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, allege that parabens are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation. The Food and Drug Administration’s Web site says that the chemicals have been in use since 1984 and are continually evaluated, with the last comprehensive report published in 2008. But it states, “FDA is aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.” As well, the FDA’s Web site notes that “FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens.”

In December 2011, the Personal Care Products Council requested that CIR reexamine its review of parabens in light of two recent opinions by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.  SCCS concluded, among other things, that some parabens are safe at current use levels but recommended that levels of others used be reduced. 

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At the March 2012 meeting, the CIR reviewed SCCS’s opinions and came to the conclusion that there was little additional new data concerning parabens.

“The cosmetic industry formally requested that CIR re-examine the safety of parabens as they are used in cosmetics, and we are gratified that the panel has done so and confirmed the safety of these ingredients,” stated Halyna Breslawec, chief scientist for the PCPC. “The Council also appreciates that the Consumer Federation of America and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supported the CIR decision.”

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