Researchers may have solved a vexing mystery as to why parabens contamination in humans has been so pervasive in recent studies: Parabens are increasingly contaminating our food supply.
Researchers from the New York State Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, along with the University of New York at Albany have determined in a study of foods purchased from local markets that much of the U.S. food supply is contaminated with parabens – a group of chemicals thought previously to produce exposure in humans through the skin in cosmetics and lotions containing preservatives.
This likely explains an increasing body of evidence showing that humans have much higher blood and urine concentrations of parabens than could be explained with the use of body lotions and cosmetics.
The researchers tested 267 samples of food collected from stores and markets around Albany New York. These included juices, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, infant formula, dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream, oils, fats, breads, flours, rice, pasta, corn, fruits, baked goods, meats, shellfish and seafoods and many others. Once collected and categorized, the foods were analyzed using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry – which measure the biochemical content of the food from the molecular level.
Five different types of parabens were tested. These were butyl-parabens, benzyl-parabens, propyl-parabens, methyl- parabens, and ethyl-parabens.
The researchers found that an astounding 90% of the food samples tested contained “measurable” concentrations of parabens. The concentration level averaged 9.7 nanograms per gram – equivalent to about 10 parts per billion.
Of the five parabens tested, the paraben types that made up more than 90% of the concentrations were methyl-, ethyl-, and propyl-parabens.
Of all the foods, pancake syrup had the highest levels of myethyl-parabens. Others that contained high levels included muffins, iced tea, pudding and turkey roast.
The highest levels of propyl-parabens were found in turkey breasts, yogurt, turkey roast and ‘good-ole’ apple pie. The highest levels of ethyl-parabens were found in red wine.
The researchers found parabens in 98% of grain foods, 91% of fish and shellfish, 87% of dairy products, and 85% of fruit products.
The researchers then utilized these concentrations to estimate what the daily consumption of parabens would occur when eating these foods. They separated the foods into the food types – by age groups – and found that shockingly, infants have the highest intake concentrations of parabens, at 940 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day. Toddlers followed with 879 ng/kb bw/day, followed by children, teenagers and adults. Adults’ average consumption of parabens through foods equated to 307 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day.
This is the first study to report the occurrence of parabens in U.S. foods, and preserved foods are an important source of paraben exposure in people.
Parabens will form as chemical esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid – a preservative increasingly used in a number of consumer products. These include skin lotions, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals – and now we know they include a variety of foods and beverages. And more recent studies have found paraben content among our waterways, soils and even house dust.
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This research now explains the pervasive finding of parabens in the urine of children and adults. A recent study from Copenhagen University Hospital two different parabens in the urine of 50% of children tested. Furthermore, the mothers of the children typically had similar concentration of parabens, indicating yet another route of toxicity to the children.
Methyl-paraben and propyl-paraben were the primary parabens found in the urine samples.
Meanwhile, researchers from China’s Nankai University collected urine samples from 70 Chinese children, 40 U.S. children and 26 Chinese adults. They found that the average urinary concentration among the U.S. children was 54 nanograms per milliliter of urine, while the Chinese children had only 10 ng/mL for total parbens. But when parabens metabolite p-hydroxybenzoic acid was compared, the Chinese children had two to three times the metabolite concentration in their urine compared to U.S. children.
When the researchers calculated how much consumption this related to, they determined that the Chinese children consumed as much as 11 milligrams per day of propyl-parabens while U.S. children are consuming less than 1 milligram per day.
Meanwhile Chinese adults also are consuming even more amounts of parabens every day in their foods, converting to about 27 milligrams a day.
Environmental parabens contamination is also increasing. A recent study from University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health found that surface waters of Pittsburgh waterways contained up to 17 parts per trillion of methyl- parabens and up to 12 parts per trillion of propyl-parabens.
A recent study from the UK’s University of Reading established that parabens in human breast tissue can proliferate into cancer cells. The researchers also found significant parabens concentrations within the breast tissue of 160 people who submitted tissue samples. They found that 27% of all the samples contained parabens concentrations that could potentially stimulate breast cancer growth. One of the reasons parabens are in focus for breast cancer is their ability to disrupt estrogen production.
The jury is in. We humans are poisoning ourselves, and it’s only getting worse.
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