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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Feb;119(2):252-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002238. Epub 2010 Sep 28.

Urinary concentrations of parabens and serum hormone levels, semen quality parameters, and sperm DNA damage.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.



Parabens are commonly used as antimicrobial preservatives in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage processing. Widespread human exposure to parabens has been recently documented, and some parabens have demonstrated adverse effects on male reproduction in animal studies. However, human epidemiologic studies are lacking.


We investigated relationships between urinary concentrations of parabens and markers of male reproductive health in an ongoing reproductive epidemiology study.


Urine samples collected from male partners attending an infertility clinic were analyzed for methyl paraben (MP), propyl paraben (PP), butyl paraben (BP), and bisphenol A (BPA). Associations with serum hormone levels (n = 167), semen quality parameters (n = 190), and sperm DNA damage measures (n = 132) were assessed using multivariable linear regression.


Detection rates in urine were 100% for MP, 92% for PP, and 32% for BP. We observed no statistically significant associations between MP or PP and the outcome measures. Categories of urinary BP concentration were not associated with hormone levels or conventional semen quality parameters, but they were positively associated with sperm DNA damage (p for trend = 0.03). When urinary BPA quartiles were added to the model, BP and BPA were both positively associated with sperm DNA damage (p for trend = 0.03). Assessment of paraben concentrations measured on repeated urine samples from a subset of the men (n = 78) revealed substantial temporal variability.


We found no evidence for a relationship between urinary parabens and hormone levels or semen quality, although intraindividual variability in exposure and a modest sample size could have limited our ability to detect subtle relationships. Our observation of a relationship between BP and sperm DNA damage warrants further investigation.

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