New research links cosmetics and personal care products to reproductive problems

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

New research links cosmetics and personal care products to reproductive problems

Related tags Paraben

Scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have demonstrated a link between three common ingredients and adverse health in newborn humans .

An article set to be published in a special Emerging Contaminants issue of the Journal of Hazardous Materials, details the connection between women’s use of products formulated with parabens, triclosan, or triclocarban and certain infant health effects.  

“Our latest study adds to the growing body of evidence showing that endocrine-disrupting compounds can lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals and in humans,” ​says Laura Geer, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate.

Cause to reformulate?

In a university press release about the research, Geer also says that “based on this new evidence, the safety of use of these chemicals in our consumer products should be reassessed.”

The study, which looked at a group of women in Brooklyn, New York, led to findings that, when considered on a nationwide or global scale could be quite alarming. “While small-scale changes in birth size may not be of clinical relevance or cause for concern in individual cases, subtle shifts in birth size or timing at the population-level would have major impacts on the risk for adverse birth outcomes.”

Health issues

The SUNY research team partnered with scientists from the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute on this project. They sought to learn more about how antimicrobial compounds and parabens impact human birth weight, body length, head size, and gestational age at birth, according to the abstract.

“The study found a link between women with higher levels of butyl paraben, which is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics, and the following birth outcomes: shorter gestational age at birth, decreased birth weight, and increased odds of preterm birth,” ​Geer explains. And, triclocarban was found to be associated with shortened gestational age.

Next steps

This study is ostensibly the first to document these health impacts in people and the findings are, according to the abstract, “consistent with animal data suggesting endocrine-disrupting potential resulting in developmental and reproductive toxicity."

 As is the case with foundational work, the “findings must be reproduced in larger studies,” ​acknowledges Geer.

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