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Calafat AM, Ye X, Wong LY, Bishop AM, Needham LL. Urinary concentrations of four parabens in the U.S. population: 2005—2006. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 May;118(5):679-85.


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

Objectives: To assess exposure to methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl parabens in a representative sample of persons aged 6 years and older 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 µg/L) and PP (8.7 µg/L). Least square geometric mean (LSGM) concentrations of MP were significantly higher (P≤ 0.01) among non-Hispanic blacks than among non-Hispanic whites except at older ages (≥60 years). Female adolescents and adults had significantly higher (P < 0.01) LSGM concentrations of MP and PP than adolescent and adult males. Females were more likely (adjusted odds ratio [OR] [95% confidence interval, 95% CI]) than males (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 methyl and propyl parabens by sex and race/ethnicity likely reflect the use of personal care products containing these compounds.

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