chemical Class


Chemicals in the class:

Benzylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben

Found in these people:

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

Found in these locations:

Austin, TX; Winchester, MA; Ross, CA; San Francisco, CA; Belmont, CA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; San Leandro, CA; North Caldwell, NJ; Novato, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Washington, DC; Portland, OR; Langhorne, PA; University Place, WA; Dorchester, MA; San Rafael, CA; Tuolumne, CA; Manteca, 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 parabens in nearly all of the 100 urine samples tested, indicating widespread exposure of Americans (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 in the body (Routledge 1998), causing concern that they may contribute to estrogen-stimulated breast cancers. A 2004 study testing for parabens in human breast cancer tumors found traces of 5 different parabens in 19 of 20 tumors (Darbre 2004). Recent research has found that doses of specific parabens 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, 2003; Pugazhendhi 2007). Several laboratory studies provide further evidence suggesting that parabens can disrupt the hormone system (Routledge 1998; Oishi 2001, 2002a, 2002b; Byford 2002; Darbre 2002, 2003; Inui 2003; Gomez 2005; Mikula 2006).

The European Union banned use of sodium methylparaben in fragrance because it can strip skin of pigment (SCCPNFP 1999, 2000). While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the levels of parabens allowed in foods and beverages, it does not regulate these chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products.


Preservatives widely used in cosmetics and personal care products, and occasionally used in prepared foods, beverages, and medications. Parabens can trigger skin allergy and irritation, and may be linked to hormone disruption and breast cancer.

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

Other health concerns for Parabens (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)possible

Toxicity Classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Skin sensitizerCIR (Cosmetics Ingredient Review). 2006. CIR Compendium, containing abstracts, discussions, and conclusions of CIR cosmetic ingredient safety assessments. Washington DC.