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Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Nov;120(11):1538-43. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104614. Epub 2012 Jun 21.

Predictors and variability of urinary paraben concentrations in men and women, including before and during pregnancy.

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Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Parabens are suspected endocrine disruptors and ubiquitous preservatives used in personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and foods. No studies have assessed the variability of parabens in women, including during pregnancy.


We evaluated predictors and variability of urinary paraben concentrations.


We measured urinary concentrations of methyl (MP), propyl (PP), and butyl paraben (BP) among couples from a fertility center. Mixed-effects regression models were fit to examine demographic predictors of paraben concentrations and to calculate intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs).


Between 2005 and 2010, we collected 2,721 spot urine samples from 245 men and 408 women. The median concentrations were 112 µg/L (MP), 24.2 µg/L (PP), and 0.70 µg/L (BP). Urinary MP and PP concentrations were 4.6 and 7.8 times higher in women than men, respectively, and concentrations of both MP and PP were 3.8 times higher in African Americans than Caucasians. MP and PP concentrations were slightly more variable in women (ICC = 0.42, 0.43) than men (ICC = 0.54, 0.51), and were weakly correlated between partners (r = 0.27-0.32). Among 129 pregnant women, urinary paraben concentrations were 25-45% lower during pregnancy than before pregnancy, and MP and PP concentrations were more variable (ICCs of 0.38 and 0.36 compared with 0.46 and 0.44, respectively).


Urinary paraben concentrations were more variable in women compared with men, and during pregnancy compared with before pregnancy. However, results for this study population suggest that a single urine sample may reasonably represent an individual's exposure over several months, and that a single sample collected during pregnancy may reasonably classify gestational exposure.

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