Urinary concentrations of four parabens in the U.S. population: NHANES 2005-2006

Environ Health Perspect. 2010 May;118(5):679-85. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901560. Epub 2010 Jan 4.


Background: Parabens are widely used as antimicrobial preservatives in cosmetics, -pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage processing.

Objectives: We assessed exposure to methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl parabens in a representative sample of persons >or= 6 years of age in the U.S. general population from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Methods: We analyzed 2,548 urine samples by using online solid-phase extraction coupled to isotope dilution-high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry.

Results: We detected methyl paraben (MP) and propyl paraben (PP) in 99.1% and 92.7% of the samples, respectively. We detected ethyl (42.4%) and butyl (47%) parabens less frequently and at median concentrations at least one order of magnitude lower than MP (63.5 microg/L) and PP (8.7 microg/L). Least-square geometric mean (LSGM) concentrations of MP were significantly higher (p <or= 0.01) among non-Hispanic blacks than among non-Hispanic whites except at older ages (>or= 60 years). Adolescent and adult females had significantly higher (p < 0.01) LSGM concentrations of MP and PP than did adolescent and adult males. Females were more likely than males [adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs): MP, 3.2 (2.99-5.27); PP, 4.19 (2.34-7.49)] and non-Hispanic blacks were more likely than non-Hispanic whites [MP, 4.99 (2.62-9.50); PP, 3.6 (1.86-7.05)] to have concentrations above the 95th percentile.

Conclusions: The general U.S. population was exposed to several parabens during 2005-2006. Differences in the urinary concentrations of MP and PP by sex and race/ethnicity likely reflect the use of personal care products containing these compounds.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Food Preservatives / adverse effects
  • Food Preservatives / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parabens / adverse effects
  • Parabens / analysis*
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / analysis
  • Solid Phase Extraction
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Food Preservatives
  • Parabens
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • ethyl-p-hydroxybenzoate
  • butylparaben
  • methylparaben
  • propylparaben