Acta Pharm. 71 (2021) 17-32


full paper



The controversies of parabens – an overview nowadays


1 Unit of Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism, Department of Pharmacology at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, 40 530 Göteborg, Sweden

2 University of Zagreb Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, Independent Unit of Toxicology,

10 000 Zagreb, Croatia

Accepted March 7, 2020

Published online April 2, 2020


Effects of paraben toxicity, i.e., endocrine-disruption properties, are in the focus of researchers for decades, but still – they are a hot subject of debate. Parabens are aliphatic esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid, which are widely used as antimicrobial agents for the preservation of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and foods. Mostly used parabens are methyl-, ethyl-, propyl- and butylparaben. Although the toxicity of parabens is reported in animals and in in vitro studies, it cannot be taken for granted when discussing hazards for human health due to an unrealistic exposure-safety profile. Many studies have demonstrated that parabens are non-teratogenic, non-mutagenic, non-carcinogenic and the real evidence for their toxicity in humans has not been established. For now, methyl-, ethyl- and propylparaben are considered safe for use in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals within the recommended range of doses. Regarding alternatives for parabens, a variety of approaches have been proposed, but every substitute would need to be tested rigorously for toxicity and safety.


Keywords: parabens, toxicity, safety, endocrine disruption, health risk