Skip Navigation

Your Environment. Your Health.

Maternal and Fetal Exposure to Parabens

Rolf Halden, Ph.D.
Arizona State University
NIEHS Grants R01ES015445, R01ES020889

An NIEHS grantee and colleagues report that paraben exposure varies strongly among communities and countries as well as by individual paraben. The new study emphasizes the need to monitor exposure to parabens as individual chemicals and on a community level.

Parabens, which are used as preservatives in personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and some foods, have been shown to act as endocrine disrupters in animal studies. The researchers investigated exposure using 181 maternal urine and 38 umbilical cord blood plasma samples from 185 pregnant women, predominantly of Caribbean and African-American descent, in Brooklyn, New York. They examined exposure to methyl-(MePB), ethyl- (EtPB), propyl- (PrPB), butyl- (BuPB), and benzylparaben.

Compared to levels reported for the general U.S. population, the study group showed a 4.4 times higher median concentration for MePB and 8.7 times higher for PrPB. The researchers detected MePB in 97.4 percent of the cord blood plasma samples. Upon comparing their findings to data for other communities and countries, the researchers found that the Brooklyn study participants ranked the highest in the world for MePB and PrPB exposure in pregnant women, whereas they ranked among the lowest for EtPB and BuPB.

The authors said that future work should examine the cultural and country-specific factors that may be responsible for the substantial differences observed between communities and countries both in the spectrum and degree of paraben exposures.

Citation: Pycke BF, Geer LA, Dalloul M, Abulafia O, Halden RU. 2015. Maternal and fetal exposure to parabens in a multiethnic urban U.S. population. Environ Int 84:193-200.