RIVM has conducted literature research into the hormone-disrupting effects of the three most commonly used parabens (methyl-, ethyl- and propylparaben) and the exposure of consumers to these substances. Based on the available information from animal studies, it is not possible to draw a conclusion regarding the possible hormone-disrupting effects of these three substances in animals or humans. Consumer exposure to the individual parabens appears to be lower than the level at which a health effect can be expected.
Parabens inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria and are therefore added as a preservative to various consumer products, such as personal care products, food and medicines. Laboratory research shows that their effect is comparable to that of the female sex hormone, but then much weaker. The current risk assessment of the three parabens is based on available information about possible health effects of these substances. The literature study shows that there is insufficient information to draw a conclusion regarding the possible hormone-disrupting effect of these three substances.
The study also estimated the extent to which consumers are exposed to the individual parabens via personal care products, food and medicines. This shows that the exposure appears to be lower than the level at which a health effect can be expected. Exposure from personal care products seems to be the biggest contributor to total exposure. The contribution to the total exposure from food is small. There is little information available to make accurate estimates of the exposure from medicines, therefore, for safety reasons assumptions have been made that are based on maximum use.
Combination of different substances
The potential exposure to the individual parabens does not appear to lead to a risk, but in practice people are exposed to a combination of different substances. It is still unclear whether and how the exposure to the different parabens can be combined in the risk assessment. RIVM recommends additional research into the health effects and mechanism of action of these substances and making the exposure estimation more accurate.