chemical information


Chemical Class:


Found in these people:

Jessica Assaf, Erin Schrode, Asta Haman-Dicko, Hope Atkins, Rizza Alcaria, Alex Wells, Anonymous Teen 9, Emma Spencer, Christa Heffron, Natalie Klapper, Anonymous Teen 11, Sarah Oswald, Caroline Burlingame, Laurie Mittelmann, 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; Winchester, MA; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Langhorne, PA; North Caldwell, NJ; 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 (CIR 2006). In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control detected butylparaben (a combination of 2 forms, (n-)butylparaben and isobutylparaben) in 69 of the 100 urine samples tested, indicating widespread exposure of Americans to these paraben compounds (Ye 2006).

Parabens are known to trigger irritation and allergic reactions in the skin, especially damaged or broken skin (Schamberg 1967; Nagel 1977; Soni 2001, 2002; CIR 2006). Parabens are thought to mimic estrogen (Routledge 1998), causing concern that they may contribute to estrogen-stimulated breast cancers. A 2004 study testing for parabens in breast cancer tumors found butylparaben in 14 of 20 tumors (Darbre 2004). Recent research indicates that doses of butylparaben trigger growth responses in estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells, responses similar to those provoked by a potent form of estrogen known as estradiol (Byford 2002; Darbre 2002; Pugazhendhi 2007).

Animal studies indicate butylparaben has other hormone-disrupting effects as well. Exposing young rats and mice to butylparaben in food led to reduced sperm and testosterone production and other negative reproductive health effects in males (Oishi 2001, 2002). The exposure level that triggered this harm to the male reproductive system was at or below the level thought to be acceptable for daily intake by the European Union and Japan (10 mg/kg body weight/day; Oishi 2002). Injections of isobutylparaben were also shown to increase mouse uterus weight (Darbre 2002), a further indication of hormone activity. The estrogenicity of butylparaben appears to be greater because of its larger size, in comparison to smaller chemicals like methylparaben; in addition, the branched or iso- form of butylparaben may be more estrogenic than the linear or n- form (Darbre 2002).


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

Butylparaben has been found in 18 of the 28 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Results for Butylparaben

in urine

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

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.744 ug/g creatinine in urine
  • found in 18 of 28 people in the group
ug/g creatinine in urine 78.7

Butylparaben results