(in 56,457 products)
Banned by Gov or classified as a carcinogen by IARC

Potential Risk Index®:

ISCE InhaleISCE SwallowISCE ContactISCE Environment
PRI Legend


1. Antimicrobial Preservative - Actively kills and inhibits the growth of unwanted microorganisms which may be harmful.
2. Preservative - Prevents and inhibits the growth of unwanted microorganisms which may be harmful
Methylparaben is an anti-fungal agent often used in a variety of cosmetics and personal-care products. It is also used as a food preservative and has the E number E218. It is approved to use as a food and cosmetics preservative in EU. In US, it is generally recognized as safe food substance. [1]
Recent Findings:
Methylparaben and propylparaben are the most commonly used parabens found in 99% of leave-on products and 77% of rinse-off products. [2] Canadian sewage samples also found traces of parabens, indicative of human systemic absorption. [2] A Norwegian study also found paraben and paraben esters present in 60% of the blood samples taken from the general population. [3] There is also a "significant association between blood paraben concentration and self-reported use of personal care products". [3] In a study involving the urinary samples of pregnant women in South Korea, urinary methylparaben was detected as the highest while butylparaben was the least. Paraben concentrations are comparable to those reported elsewhere, but South Korean women had ethylparaben levels 4-9 folds higher than for pregnant women in other countries. [4] Parabens were also found in human milk [3] and in the "first urine of newborn infants". [4]
A study compiled data from LSRO/FASEB (Life Sciences Research Office / Federation of American Societies For Experimental Biology) deduced that total paraben consumption could be up to “77.5 mg/day or 1.29 mg/kg/day for a 60-kg individual” where “methyl paraben consumption is 51.6 mg/day or 0.86 mg/kg/day”. [5] This is predominantly due to “the popular use of paraben preservatives in cosmetics and toiletries arises from their low toxicity, broad spectrum of activity, worldwide regulatory acceptance, biodegradability, and low cost.” and its ease of application, where “methylparaben and propylparaben can be added to the base’s [the product's] water and oil phases, respectively.” [5] This also highlights methylparaben's solubility in water, lowering its potential to bioaccumulate.
Parabens have been shown to possess oestrogenic properties and may have the potential to bind to the oestrogen receptor (ER). [2] [3] [4] "Oestrogenic activity of parabens is known to increase with increasing length of the linear alkyl chain from methylparaben to n-butylparaben". [2] Parabens have already demonstrated an ability to disrupt physiologically important functions in vitro and in vivo, and their "oestrogenic activity could influence the growth of oestrogenic responsive breast cancers". [2] In a study consisting of 160 breast tissue samples, paraben was detected in 99% of all samples, methylparaben in 95%, ethylparaben in 92%, n-propylparaben in 75% and isobutylparaben in 85%. [3] "Mixtures of different parabens together in lower concentrations can stimulate human breast cancer cell proliferation". [6] There has also been sufficient data to show that methylparaben "affects breast cancer tumor-initiating cells", and has an effect on NANOG, a protein that regulates pluripotency (stem cell-ness, the ability of the cell to differentiate into other more specialized cells). [6]
Some reports also indicate that methylparaben is not carcinogenic when injected, but only when it binds to the human estrogen receptor. In the same study, the potency of methylparaben is "1000x less" when compared to natural estradiol. Since the toxicity of methylparaben is predominantly based on its binding to the human estrogen receptor, it may make the toxicity of methylparaben seem controversial. [7] [8]
Methylparaben was also found in 18 out of 25 sea otters from the Californian coast, 13 out of 18 sea otters from the Washington coast, and in 12 out of 20 dolphins from the Floridian coast. [9] The levels detected suggested that the source of methylparaben was predominantly from anthropogenic causes. [9] Methylparaben was also the most predominant compound detected in 203 out of 226 (90%) marine biota samples, with the highest concentration found in the kidney of the red snapper. [10] The results show that methylparaben "has the potential to biomagnify in marine ecosystems". [10]
Given the wide use of methylparaben, its presence can be detected in urine and also be passed from mother to baby via breast milk. It has also been shown to also bioaccumulate in marine ecosystems, potentially increasing the methylparaben levels found in fish. Many studies have concluded that methylparaben has shown oestrogenic-like properties, and an increase in oestrogen or oestrogen-like compounds, will generally lead to an increased risk in breast cancer. It is also generally assumed that methylparaben will bind to the oestrogen receptor with the same affinity as oestrogen itself.
Scientific References:
2. Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. (J Appl Toxicol. 2008 Jul;28(5):561-78. DOI: 10.1002/jat.1358.)
3. Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum. (J Appl Toxicol. 2012 Mar;32(3):219-32. DOI: 10.1002/jat.1786. Epub 2012 Jan 12.)
4. Urinary paraben concentrations among pregnant women and their matching newborn infants of Korea, and the association with oxidative stress biomarkers. (Sci. Total Environ., 461-462, 214–221. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.04.097)
5. Evaluation of the health aspects of methyl paraben: a review of the published literature. (Food Chem. Toxicol., 40(10), 1335–1373. doi:10.1016/s0278-6915(02)00107-2)
6. Methylparaben stimulates tumor initiating cells in ER+ breast cancer models. (J Appl Toxicol. 2017 Apr;37(4):417-425. DOI: 10.1002/jat.3374. Epub 2016 Sep 1.)
7. Final amended report on the safety assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben,
8. Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Benzylparaben as used in cosmetic products (Int J Toxicol. 2008;27 Suppl 4:1-82. DOI: 10.1080/10915810802548359)
9. Evaluation of the health aspects of methyl paraben: a review of the published literature (Food Chem Toxicol. 2002 Oct;40(10):1335-73.)
10. Elevated Accumulation of Parabens and their Metabolites in Marine Mammals from the United States Coastal Waters (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (20), pp 12071–12079 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b03601)
11. Trophic Magnification of Parabens and Their Metabolites in a Subtropical Marine Food Web. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 51(2), 780–789. doi:10.1021/acs.est.6b05501)
Regulatory References:
3. US FDA Food Additives Status List [2018]
- Methylparaben (methyl-p-hydroxybenzoate)
4. EU Approved Food Additive [2018]
- E218
- Ref: V/12
6. US FDA Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) Food Substances (21 CFR 184) [2017]
- § 184.1490 - Methylparaben

Safety and Hazards (UN GHS):

1. Harmful if swallowed (H302)
2. Causes skin irritation (H315)
3. Causes serious eye damage (H318)
4. Causes serious eye irritation (H319)
5. May cause respiratory irritation (H335)
6. Harmful to aquatic life (H402)
7. Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects (H412)

Potential Health Concerns For:

1. Abnormalities, Multiple (PubMed ID:23637088)
2. Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (PubMed ID:32283359)
3. Birth Weight (PubMed ID:25061923)
4. Dermatitis, Allergic Contact (PubMed ID:26795242)
5. Digestive System Abnormalities (PubMed ID:23637088)
6. Edema (PubMed ID:23637088)
7. Eye Abnormalities (PubMed ID:23637088)
8. Infertility, Female (PubMed ID:27286252)
9. Premature Birth (PubMed ID:32283359)
10. Prenatal Injuries (PubMed ID:23637088)

Potential Health Benefits For:

1. Cognition Disorders (PubMed ID:23068419)
2. Neurotoxicity Syndromes (PubMed ID:23068419)
3. Psychomotor Agitation (PubMed ID:23068419)

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