chemical information


Chemical Class:


Found in these people:

Jessica Assaf, Erin Schrode, Asta Haman-Dicko, Hope Atkins, Rizza Alcaria, Alex Wells, Anonymous Teen 9, Anonymous Teen 20, Emma Spencer, Christa Heffron, Natalie Klapper, Sydney Blankers, Anonymous Teen 11, Sarah Oswald, Caroline Burlingame, Laurie Mittelmann, Monica Paulson, Donalin Cazeau, Jenny Gilbertson, Anonymous Teen 21

Found in these locations:

San Rafael, CA; Ross, CA; San Leandro, CA; Tuolumne, CA; Manteca, CA; Washington, DC; Austin, TX; Winchester, MA; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Belmont, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Langhorne, PA; North Caldwell, NJ; University Place, WA; Dorchester, MA; Novato, CA


Parabens are extremely common synthetic preservatives used in cosmetics and personal care products, and also in some foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. Parabens are absorbed rapidly through intact skin (Soni 2001). In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control detected propylparaben (also called n-propylparaben) in 96 of the 100 urine samples tested, indicating widespread exposure of Americans to this particular paraben compound (Ye 2006). A branched form of propylparaben, called isopropylparaben, was not examined in this study.

Propylparaben is known to trigger irritation and allergic reactions in the skin, especially damaged or broken skin (Schamberg 1967; Nagel 1977; Soni 2001; CIR 2006). Generally parabens are thought to mimic estrogen (Routledge 1998), causing concern that they may contribute to estrogen-stimulated breast cancers. In fact, research from 2002 found that doses of propylparaben increased the growth and gene expression of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells, responses similar to those provoked by a potent form of estrogen known as estradiol (Byford 2002). A 2004 study testing for parabens in breast cancer tumors found propylparaben in 15 of 20 tumors (Darbre 2004).

Animal studies indicate propylparaben has other hormone-disrupting effects as well. Exposing young rats to propylparaben in food led to reduced sperm and testosterone production in males (Oishi 2002). The exposure level that triggered this harm to the male reproductive system was the same as that thought to be acceptable for daily intake by the European Union and Japan (10 mg/kg body weight/day; Oishi 2002). Studies on fish species have revealed estrogenic (Inui 2003) and antiestrogenic (Mikula 2006) effects caused by exposure to propylparaben, indicating a potential for more complex hormone activity. Aquatic organisms can suffer reproductive harm resulting from exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals present in treated wastewater discharged to lakes and streams.


Preservative widely used in cosmetics. Can trigger skin allergy and irritation, and may be linked to hormone disruption and breast cancer.

Propylparaben has been found in 26 of the 28 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Results for Propylparaben

in urine

Showing results from Dateline NBC Families, EWG Study #10, cosmetic chemicals in teens, Dateline NBC Families

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 11.2 ug/g creatinine in urine
  • found in 26 of 28 people in the group
ug/g creatinine in urine 898

Propylparaben results