What is a paraben and how do they work?

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Among the ingredients that frequently turn up on labels of products ranging from toothpaste to deodorant are parabens. Parabens are identified by a wide array of names, such as propylparaben and parahydroxybenzoate. Despite the occasionally tongue-twisting names, parabens of any name are simply preservatives. They are colourless and odourless. They have no taste, do not discolour and are practically pH neutral. Without them, bacteria and fungi would begin growing in these products, spoiling them and possibly harming you. Parabens are relatively easy to produce and incorporate into products, making them an ideal way to lengthen the shelf life of a variety of consumer goods. Some products, which contain parabens include: cosmetics, soaps, glues, and processed food products.