Effects of propyl paraben on the male reproductive system

Food Chem Toxicol. 2002 Dec;40(12):1807-13. doi: 10.1016/s0278-6915(02)00204-1.


Parabens are p-hydroxybenzoic acid ester compounds widely used as preservatives in foods, cosmetics, toiletries and pharmaceuticals. These compounds exert a weak estrogenic activity as determined by in vitro estrogen receptor assay and in vivo uterotrophic assay. In a previous study, it was demonstrated by the present author that exposure of post-weaning mammals to butyl paraben adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system. In the present study, it is shown that propyl paraben also adversely affects the hormonal secretion and the male reproductive functions. Propyl paraben was administered to 3-week-old rats which were divided into four groups of eight animals each, at doses of 0.00, 0.01, 0.10 and 1.00% with the AIN93G modified diet. At the end of 4 weeks, the rats were sacrificed by decapitation and the weights of testes, epididymides, prostates, seminal vesicles and preputial glands were determined. There were no treatment-related effects of propyl paraben on the organ weights in any of the study groups. The cauda epididymal sperm reserves and concentrations decreased in a dose-dependent manner and the difference was significant at dose of 0.10% and above. Daily sperm production and its efficiency in the testis of all groups receiving propyl paraben significantly decreased. The serum testosterone concentration decreased in a dose-dependent manner and the decrease was significant in the group that received the highest dose. The exposure level at which this effect was observed is the same as the upper-limit acceptable daily intake (10 mg/kg body weight/day) of parabens in the European Community and Japan.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Food Preservatives / toxicity*
  • Genitalia, Male / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Parabens / administration & dosage
  • Parabens / toxicity*
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sperm Count
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Food Preservatives
  • Parabens
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Testosterone
  • propylparaben