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Environment

Paraben hysteria

January 16, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 3

The fearmongers are at it again! An insubstantial study, with no controls, about the presence of minute traces of paraben in some tissues is enough to set off a hysterical demand to remove this from everything that might benefit from it! Better to have people get sick from rancid oil; that is "organic." I am old enough to remember a similar hysterical response to a study of white glue (polyvinyl acetate emulsion) that was supposed to be teratogenic; years later, after numerous attempts to reproduce that study, it was finally decided that it was wrong, but in the meantime, several companies whose major product was white glue went out of business.

I have seen hysteria about butter: It is bad and should be replaced with margarine, and then margarine is bad and should be replaced by butter. Coffee is bad for breast cancer; coffee contains good antioxidants. The list is endless, and most of the time the effects measured are at the limit of statistical relevance.

Who appointed these people like the Breast Cancer Action or other "public advocates"? What right do they have to dictate to the rest of the world? Who appointed them to be our guardians? There is an entire industry today that has only one purpose: to frighten a gullible public into thinking that anything that might be synthetic is also dangerous. If these people really want to do some good, they should do something about the exterior environment, such as power plants, acid mine drainage, and mercury emissions.

Sure, industry has used chemicals that could be harmful, but it takes more than one trivial study to convince this old goat that there is harm in something as trivial as face cream. For that matter, nobody is forced to use it, and everyone can read labels for themselves. Much of the time the substitutes being touted are no better or even worse than the original target. (See butter and margarine above.)

Werner Zimmt
Tucson, Ariz.

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