Chemicals that are commonly used as ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products may lead to changes in reproductive hormones in women, according to a new study published in the journal Environment International.
For the study, researchers at George Mason University in Virginia collected 509 urine samples from 143 women aged 18 to 44 years. All participants were free of known chronic health conditions and birth control so they could be measured for environmental chemicals that are commonly found in personal care products, including parabens, which are antimicrobial preservatives, and benzophenones, which are ultraviolet filters.
“This study is the first to examine mixtures of chemicals that are widely used in personal care products in relation to hormones in healthy, reproductive-age women, using multiple measures of exposure across the menstrual cycle, which improved upon research that relied on one or two measures of chemicals,” said study leader Dr. Anna Pollack, a George Mason University Assistant Professor of Global and Community Health.
This multi-chemical approach more closely reflects real world environmental exposures and shows that even low-level exposure to mixtures of chemicals may affect reproductive hormone levels.
Another significant finding of the study is that certain chemical and UV filters were found to be associated with decreased reproductive hormones in multi-chemical exposures while others were associated with increases in other reproductive hormones, underscoring the complexities of these chemicals.
“What we should take away from this study is that we may need to be careful about the chemicals in the beauty and personal care products we use,” Pollack said.
“We have early indicators that chemicals such as parabens may increase estrogen levels. If this finding is confirmed by additional research, it could have implications for estrogen dependent diseases such as breast cancer.”
According to Scientific American, “Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity,” reports the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC). “Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells.” Research has shown that the perceived influx of estrogen beyond normal levels can in some cases trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumors.
As we go about our daily lives, most of us are exposed to many different chemicals that could have negative effects on our hormones. These hormonal changes have been linked to a number of negative health outcomes such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The new findings have important implications, as understanding chemicals that influence hormone levels is vital for public health — and particularly for women’s health — since their exposure to these chemicals is often higher due to their presence in beauty and personal care products.
Health advocates are continuing to pressure the U.S. Food and Drug Aministration to ban parabens in products sold in the U.S. The European Union already instituted such a ban in 2012. In the meantime, concerned consumers can protect themselves by reading product labels and avoiding products with parabens.
Source: George Mason University