Frequency of sensitization to 13 common preservatives in Switzerland. Swiss Contact Dermatitis Research Group

Contact Dermatitis. 1994 May;30(5):276-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1994.tb00597.x.


From February 1989 to January 1990, the Swiss Contact Dermatitis Research Group conducted a 1-year study to examine the frequency of sensitization to a series of 13 common preservatives. A group of 2295 consecutive outpatients with suspected allergic contact dermatitis (age range 7-90 years, with a mean age of 42; 911 males, 1384 females) was tested. The %s of positive reactions to the preservatives studied are as follows, in descending order: formaldehyde 5.7%, benzalkonium chloride 5.5%, Kathon CG 5.5%, thimerosal 4.2%, chlorhexidine digluconate 2.0%, DMDM hydantoin 1.7%, paraben mix 1.7%, chloroacetamide 1.5%, Bronopol 1.2%, imidazolidinyl urea 1.0%, quaternium 15 1.0%, triclosan 0.8%, 2,4-dichlorobenzyl alcohol 0.4%. These relatively high values suggest a heavy exposure of the Swiss population to topical preservatives. Compared to previous studies, the sensitization rate to Kathon CG has stabilized in Switzerland over the last 2 years. Sensitization to formaldehyde portrayed impressive geographical variation, with sensitization rates up to 9% in western and only 3% in eastern Switzerland. The low sensitization rate to parabens argues for their inclusion in a medicament or preservative series, rather than in the standard series.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects*
  • Skin Tests
  • Switzerland / epidemiology


  • Allergens
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical