Parabens in Pap Smears May Cause Cell Mutation and Irritation


Having just visited the gynecologist for a yearly examination, I noticed an overwhelming ill feeling a few hours after leaving the doctor’s office.  For the rest of the day I had a mix of a headache, abdominal cramps, nausea, fatigue, and an upset stomach.  The symptoms would come and go without pattern.  I generally just fell unwell.  I have had this feeling after every doctor visit where lube is used vaginally to insert some instrument (or someone’s hand).  They squirt out that nasty lube and smear it all over their hand or tool before sliding it in.  I had to know what was in that stuff.


The only active ingredient listed in the most common lube used in paps, Femglide, was Methylparaben. After switching cosmetics, cleaning supplies, soaps, etc  to non toxic, all natural products, the last thing I wanted was a paraben being generously applied to my vagina where it is quick to be absorbed into my bloodstream.  A little research lead me a long way:

Methylparaben, designated as food additive E218 in Europe, is a preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi in many products, but it is frequently used in cosmetics. 1

Femglide and Slippery Stuff is touted as “sperm friendly” and one of the least harmful personal lubricant available.  Methlyparaben in Femglide is a know mutagen, causing cells it contacts to mutate.  Why that is considered “sperm friendly” evades me.  Methylparaben, which is currently banned in the EU is also a skin irritant and is known to cause allergic reaction in humans.  That would explain why I felt like crap after the doctor used a half cup on her hand.

The EWG states that “one or more animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses.”  Methylparaben is also known to cause cancer, endocrine disruption, and interference with gene expression. (I think the sperm are doomed at this point).  It is is considered by the EWG a high health hazard with the ability to cause cancer, toxicity of the stomach, digestive tract, respiratory tract and cardiovascular system.

Armed with this information, it would be safe to caution against using personal lubrication when trying to conceive if you want live, healthy sperm.  Also, if you have issues with yeast infections, using a personal lubrication with Methylparaben in it is not advisable because it may kill the healthy bacteria in the vagina.

Femglide and personal lubes are not the only products in the US containing the chemical Methylparaben.  Sun screens, lotions, conditioners, hemorrhoid creams and get this: spermicides are just a few product types that may include Methlyparabens.  See an entire list here.

Did I mention that Methlyparaben is not the only nasty ingredient in Femglide?  Yes, there is PEG-4.  I’ll let explain why this chemical is so toxic:

“Polyethylene glycol, better known by its acronym, PEG, isn’t a single ingredient but a class of ethylene glycol polymers that moisturize, keep products stable, and enhance the penetration of other ingredients, both good and bad. PEGs are typically followed by a number correlating to how many units of ethylene glycol they comprise, in the form of say PEG-4 or PEG-100; the lower the number, the more easily the compound is absorbed into the skin.

While PEGs can be mild irritants, they’re less than desirable primarily because they help traffic funky chemicals across your epidermis, including a slug of impurities they’re often contaminated with. According to a report in the International Journal of Toxicology by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, pollutants found in various PEG compounds include ethylene oxide (used to manufacture mustard gas), 1,4-dioxane, polycyclic aromatic compounds, and heavy metals (lead, iron, cobalt, nickel, cadmium, arsenic).” 3

The EWG says that PEG-4 is restricted in cosmetic use and is not safe for application on damaged or broken skin.  Have a slight tear downstairs during your papsmear ladies?  Well, why not smear PEG-4 all over it?  PEG-4 is a human carcinogen and has been banned in Canada, yet the FDA allows it’s use in food products.  You won’t see it listed as PEG-4 in your food, rather it is called POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL when placed on a food lable. 4

So for my next papsmear, I am officially allergic to Methylparaben.  “No thanks doc, I’ll pass on the paraben-chemical goop, but thanks for asking.”



1. ACS Chemistry

2.  EWG


4. EWG on PEG-4


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