Paraben Persecution and The Precautionary Principle
Our subject today is a bit of a biggie: calling out fearmongers and those who either stand by in silence, or – worse – go along with fearmongers for fear of being persecuted themselves. This is a rather serious issue that continues to baffle me.
I've tried to keep the tone as light as possible, but nevertheless, the facts are still the facts.
The VerdictIn December 2010, two of the parabens that had been undergoing study for suspected health and environmental concerns were pronounced safe by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). At the same time, it was announced that isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben would be undergoing further study. (Two additional parabens: ethylparaben and methylparaben were never under any suspicion at all).
The ReactionsCosmetics formulators, manufacturers and maybe even many consumers breathed a sigh of relief. An independant scientific committee with no vested interest in anything but learning the facts had spoken: parabens were not endocrine disruptors, carcinogenic, allergenic or anything else that should cause concern.
This was indeed good news! Everyone was happy.
They didn't like this news at all. They had been doing so well vilifying parabens that they had gathered quite a following. They weren't the least bit interested in giving up the position they had created.
What to do?
'Never mind' they said. 'There still 2 parabens undergoing study. If we lump all the parabens together, throw in a few lies and keep shouting loudly enough, maybe people will forget the facts.'
So that's what they did.
And it didn't take long before people had indeed forgotten the facts.
The fearmongers continued fearmongering, consumers grew more and more confused, and manufacturers grew tired of having to defend using proven, safe preservatives in their products. Some started replacing parabens with alternative preservatives. They even started advertising their products as 'paraben-free' to place themselves ahead of their competition.
Almost 2 years passed.
In January 2012, parabens had been vilified for so long, the Nordic Swan label folks were worried about loosing sales. They announced they would be excluding ALL parabens from ALL products carrying their label.
They needed a 'public' reason. After all, the facts were still indisputable: most of parabens had been pronounced safe, and the 2 still undergoing study had already been voluntarily dropped by manufacturers years earlier.
What to do?
The Precautionary PrincipleThe Swan label folks decided to use the Precautionary Principle as their reasoning for dropping parabens.
The Precautionary Principle works kind of like this: if there is the slightest indication that a paraben could be linked to a possible health or environmental concern, then it may be assumed that other parabens might possibly have the same properties and may therefore also be excluded – until proven otherwise.
Hmmm. But they already proved otherwise (again) back in 2010.
So, How Many Times Does it Take?How many times do parabens have to be proven safe before they are exonerated?
Parabens have been on the market for over 80 years. They are some of the most tried and thoroughly tested preservatives. They have been around so long that there are even long-term studies on them.
So, why are the organizations like the Nordic Swan Label making such illogical and ridiculous policy decisions?
When are we going to stop listening to fearmongers and start paying attention to proven facts?
I'm just asking.
I'm Not The Only OneI'm not the only person scratching their head about this. Cosmetic scientist Perry Romanowski recently asked this same question in this blog post. I know there are others, but they seem awfully few and far between.
Thanks for reading.
The Swan Label Story in DetailRead more about The Swan Label Folks and How They Banned Parabens Here