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Butylparaben, a common preservative found in cosmetics and skincare products, could have more severe effects on the body’s endocrine system than previously established, according to new research from the National Food Institute at the Technical University in Denmark. Part of a class of chemicals known as parabens, butylparaben is widely found in everything from shampoos and conditioners to body lotions and sunscreens. It’s even used as an additive in medicine or food. Although previous studies show that the chemical can reduce sperm count in male rats that were exposed to it in utero, recent findings from the National Food Institute suggest that the compound could have other hormone-disrupting effects, including changes in breast tissue and ovary weight in females.

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“Overall, our results suggest that butylparaben has more negative effects on reproductive health than previously thought,” Julie Boberg, senior researcher at the National Food Institute, said in a statement.

There’s no cause for immediate alarm, the scientists said. Most of us are exposed to parabens in doses well below what the rats have been exposed to, the And while sperm quality was affected at all studied doses, some of the effects only manifested at high doses.

What they do know for sure, on the other hand, is that there are gaps in our knowledge of how butylparaben affects people.

Boberg stressed the need to compare the “doses humans have in their bodies with the doses test animals have in their bodies.”

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This requires more data on what children and adults are exposed to through personal-care products and cosmetics and how those substances are metabolized by the body.

”We need more knowledge about what it means for humans to be exposed to parabens from skin lotions and cosmetics for example,” Boberg said. “It is especially important to take account of cocktail effects because people are exposed to many types of endocrine disruptors at the same time over the course of a normal day.”

Still, the study, which was funded by the the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and the Danish Centre on Endocrine Disrupters, may influence future legislation in the European Union, which has already banned the use of some parabens in foods and cosmetics.

“As the study from the National Food Institute shows that butylparaben probably has an endocrine disrupting mode of action, this new knowledge about butylparaben may have an impact on how authorities in the future choose to regulate the use of the substance in different products,” Boberg added.

+ Technical University of Denmark

[Via Medical Xpress]