Evaluation of the health aspects of methyl paraben: A review of the published literature

M. G. Soni, S. L. Taylor, N. A. Greenberg, G. A. Burdock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

327 Scopus citations


Methyl paraben (CAS No. 99-76-3) is a methyl ester of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. It is a stable, non-volatile compound used as an antimicrobial preservative in foods, drugs and cosmetics for over 50 years. Methyl paraben is readily and completely absorbed through the skin and from the gastrointestinal tract. It is hydrolyzed to p-hydroxybenzoic acid, conjugated, and the conjugates are rapidly excreted in the urine. There is no evidence of accumulation. Acute toxicity studies in animals indicate that methyl paraben is practically non-toxic by both oral and parenteral routes. In a population with normal skin, methyl paraben is practically non-irritating and non-sensitizing. In chronic administration studies, no-observed-effect levels (NOEL) as high as 1050 mg/kg have been reported and a no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) in the rat of 5700 mg/kg is posited. Methyl paraben is not carcinogenic or mutagenic. It is not teratogenic or embryotoxic and is negative in the uterotrophic assay. The mechanism of cytotoxic action of parabens may be linked to mitochondrial failure dependent on induction of membrane permeability transition accompanied by the mitochondrial depolarization and depletion of cellular ATP through uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation. Parabens are reported to cause contact dermatitis reactions in some individuals on cutaneousl exposure. Parabens have been implicated in numerous cases of contact sensitivity associated with cutaneous exposure; however, the mechanism of this sensitivity is unknown. Sensitization has occurred when medications containing parabens have been applied to damaged or broken skin. Allergic reactions to ingested parabens have been reported, although rigorous evidence of the allergenicity of ingested paraben is lacking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1335-1373
Number of pages39
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Antimicrobial
  • Cosmetic
  • Drug
  • Excipient
  • Food additive
  • Food ingredient
  • Methyl paraben
  • Preservative
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Toxicology


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