The Health Controversies of Parabens

Mark G. Kirchhof, MD, PhD; Gillian C. de Gannes, MD, MSc, FRCPC


Skin Therapy Letter. 2013;18(2) 

In This Article

Parabens in the Environment

Parabens have been found in urban streams into which treated or untreated effluent from wastewater treatment plants flows.[6,7] Consequently, these chemical compounds have been identified in rivers and drinking water sources.[6,8] Parabens have been detected in soil from agricultural fields, possibly from irrigation or fertilization practices.[9,10] The dust in houses has also been found to contain parabens.[11,12] Although commercially used parabens are of synthetic origin, some parabens are produced by living organisms, specifically by plants and microbes, e.g., a marine bacterial strain belonging to the genus Microbulbifer.[13] Plants such as blueberries, carrots, olives, strawberries and others produce parabens (mainly methylparaben) for its presumed antimicrobial activity.[14–16] Overall, the concentrations of parabens within the environment are low with water concentrations around 7 ng/L and effluent concentrations up to 6 μg/L, soil concentrations range from 0.5 to 8 ng/g while house dust contained up to 2400 ng/g.7–11