You've probably heard about parabens. These synthetic compounds are used in a host of products as preservatives to prevent bacteria and fungus growth. They've proven effective in doing that. But you may also have heard some of the scary stories that have been circulating for years about these chemicals.
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Although non-toxic, parabens can cause rashes in those with a sensitivity to them, there have been stories that parabens are endocrine distruptors, which are implicated in early puberty, reproductive disorders and cancers, especially breast cancer. Surely you've heard the one about deodorants, which often contain parabens, increasing the risk of breast cancer due to their use in proximity to breast tissue.
Is it true? There has been a handful of inconclusive studies but no solid proof has emerged. As Wikipedia so aptly put it, "The above-mentioned studies have sparked scientific debate that in turn led to popular controversy, largely propagated by mass e-mail."
The best-known study, released in 2004, found small amounts of parabens in the tissue of 20 human breast tumors and concluded, "These studies demonstrate that parabens can be found intact in the human breast and this should open the way technically for more detailed information to be obtained on body burdens of parabens and in particular whether body burdens are different in cancer from those in normal tissues." This study did not compare tumorous tissue to healthy tissue to normal tissue. In other words, we don't know yet.
That's precisely what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: "Human health effects from environmental exposure to low levels of parabens are unknown." But if you want to avoid products containing parabens just to be on the safe side, here are some things you can do.
1. Buy products made in small batches, preferably by a local artisan who sells products directly to customers and whose bottled and jars don't sit on store shelves for months. You can also query the maker about what she uses and how long her products are intended to last. Parabens and other preservatives are found in moisturizers, shampoos, shaving gels, liquid hand soaps and other personal care products, so those are the ones to look for.
2. Buy products without a lot of moisture content, which limits the need for an antibacterial and antifungal preservative. Those preservatives are commonly found in moisturizers and lotions whose damp environment encourages the growth of microbes. Regular bar soaps don't require them, and lotion bars are becoming increasing popular.
3. Buy natural. There are an increasing number of product lines selling natural personal care products and makeup items, which are also a potential source of parabens. Burt's Bees is one of the best known, available in major chain stores. But there are many others. Be sure to read the ingredient label so you know what you are getting—all paraben-based chemical names end with "paraben." Many natural products use paraben substitutes like grapeseed oil, jojoba, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. However, these have been found not to be as effective as synthetic preservatives.
As Burt's Bees says, explaining why its product line is only 99 percent natural, "Preservation of natural formulas is challenging and we’ve found that natural preservatives simply aren’t effective in some formulas. To ensure the safety, efficacy and aesthetic of our formulas, we use the synthetic preservative phenoxyethanol at 1 percent or below in some of our water-containing products. We chose it because it is a non-paraben, non-formaldehyde-releasing preservative and is used broadly in natural personal care products." However, more than half its products are 100 percent natural.
4. Use up your natural products quickly. If you buy makeup without preservatives, be sure to replace it regularly. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says, "Some companies have created preservative-free products that have shorter shelf lives than conventional products (six months to a year), but if used daily are likely to be used up before they expire."
5. Use common household substitutes for store-bought products. Parabens can be found in items like toothpaste and shaving gels. You can brush your teeth with baking soda, and your bar of soap makes just as good a lather for shaving as a can of shaving gel. Many kitchen staples, including honey, olive oil, oatmeal and yogurt are great for the skin.
6. Parabens are also commonly used as preservatives in foods intended to have a long shelf life, including beer, syrups, salad dressings, jams, canned foods, frozen desserts and other frozen dairy products and, according to a piece last year on the NPR blog The Salt, tortilla shells. The more fresh food you eat that doesn't require preservatives, the less parabens you will likely be getting. And whether or not parabens are carcinogens, eating less processed food with fewer chemicals can't do you any harm.
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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