Parabens in Canadians
Information on human biomonitoring of parabens in Canada with results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey.
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What are parabens?
Parabens are a group of para-hydroxybenzoic acid esters. They are widely used as preservatives because of their antibacterial and antifungal properties. Common parabens detected in the Canadian population include methylparaben (CASRN 99-76-3) and propylparaben (CASRN 94-13-3).
Where are parabens found?
Parabens are used in personal care products, including makeup, moisturizers, sunscreens, hair-care products, skin cleansers, shaving products and toothpastes. They are also used in food packaging, prescription and non-prescription drugs, and pest control products.
How are people exposed to parabens?
People can be exposed to parabens through skin contact with personal care products, such as moisturizers and cosmetics. Oral exposure can also occur by eating foods or taking drugs containing parabens.
How are parabens measured in people?
Parabens are absorbed through the skin or gastrointestinal tract and metabolized. Parabens and their metabolites can be measured in urine and used as biomarkers of recent exposure.
What are the potential health impacts of parabens?
Health effects have not been observed as a result of exposures to parabens at concentrations found in cosmetics. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has not evaluated parabens with respect to human carcinogenicity.
What is the Government of Canada doing to lower human exposures to parabens?
In 2020, the Government of Canada completed a draft screening assessment of parabens under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The assessment proposed that methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben be identified as toxic. It also proposed that ethylparaben not be identified as toxic. The Government of Canada continues to monitor and assess parabens.
|Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS)||General Canadian population living in the 10 provinces|
|U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)||General U.S. population|
This fact sheet presents nationally representative data from the CHMS. These data are compared with data from the U.S. NHANES.
|Collection period||Age range (years)||Matrix||Biomarkers|
|2012–2013||3 to 79||Urine||Methylparaben, propylparaben|
|2014–2015||3 to 79||Urine||Methylparaben, propylparaben|
|2016–2017||3 to 79||Urine||Methylparaben, propylparaben|
|2018–2019||3 to 79||Urine||Methylparaben, propylparaben|
Figure 1: Text description
|Paraben||Collection period||Geometric mean|
There was a statistically significant decreasing trend (P < 0.001) in methylparaben and propylparaben concentrations in the Canadian population aged 3 to 79. Between 2012–2013 and 2018–2019, methylparaben concentrations declined by 46% and propylparaben concentrations declined by 58%.
Canadian population, by age group
Figure 2: Text description
|Paraben||Collection period||Age group (years)||Geometric mean|
|Methylparaben||2012–2013||3 to 5||20|
|Methylparaben||2012–2013||6 to 11||7.7|
|Methylparaben||2012–2013||12 to 19||15|
|Methylparaben||2012–2013||20 to 39||21|
|Methylparaben||2012–2013||40 to 59||25|
|Methylparaben||2012–2013||60 to 79||25|
|Methylparaben||2014–2015||3 to 5||12|
|Methylparaben||2014–2015||6 to 11||7.6|
|Methylparaben||2014–2015||12 to 19||14|
|Methylparaben||2014–2015||20 to 39||16|
|Methylparaben||2014–2015||40 to 59||21|
|Methylparaben||2014–2015||60 to 79||20|
|Methylparaben||2016–2017||3 to 5||9.9|
|Methylparaben||2016–2017||6 to 11||7.5|
|Methylparaben||2016–2017||12 to 19||9.5|
|Methylparaben||2016–2017||20 to 39||15|
|Methylparaben||2016–2017||40 to 59||14|
|Methylparaben||2016–2017||60 to 79||20|
|Methylparaben||2018–2019||3 to 5||6.3|
|Methylparaben||2018–2019||6 to 11||4.7|
|Methylparaben||2018–2019||12 to 19||8.0|
|Methylparaben||2018–2019||20 to 39||11|
|Methylparaben||2018–2019||40 to 59||11|
|Methylparaben||2018–2019||60 to 79||18|
|Propylparaben||2012–2013||3 to 5||1.7|
|Propylparaben||2012–2013||6 to 11||0.99|
|Propylparaben||2012–2013||12 to 19||2.5|
|Propylparaben||2012–2013||20 to 39||3.9|
|Propylparaben||2012–2013||40 to 59||2.8|
|Propylparaben||2012–2013||60 to 79||3.7|
|Propylparaben||2014–2015||3 to 5||1.5|
|Propylparaben||2014–2015||6 to 11||1.2|
|Propylparaben||2014–2015||12 to 19||2.3|
|Propylparaben||2014–2015||20 to 39||2.6|
|Propylparaben||2014–2015||40 to 59||2.9|
|Propylparaben||2014–2015||60 to 79||3.0|
|Propylparaben||2016–2017||3 to 5||1.2|
|Propylparaben||2016–2017||6 to 11||0.96|
|Propylparaben||2016–2017||12 to 19||1.4|
|Propylparaben||2016–2017||20 to 39||2.1|
|Propylparaben||2016–2017||40 to 59||2.0|
|Propylparaben||2016–2017||60 to 79||2.3|
|Propylparaben||2018–2019||3 to 5||0.75|
|Propylparaben||2018–2019||6 to 11||0.59|
|Propylparaben||2018–2019||12 to 19||1.0|
|Propylparaben||2018–2019||20 to 39||1.3|
|Propylparaben||2018–2019||40 to 59||1.1|
|Propylparaben||2018–2019||60 to 79||1.8|
Concentrations of methylparaben and propylparaben were generally higher in adults than in children in the Canadian population.
Canadian population, by sex
Figure 3: Text description
|Paraben||Collection period||Sex||Geometric mean|
Concentrations of methylparaben and propylparaben were higher in females than in males in the Canadian population.
Comparison of the Canadian and U.S. populations
Figure 4: Text description
|Paraben||Biomonitoring initiative||Collection period||Geometric mean|
Concentrations of methylparaben and propylparaben were higher in the U.S. population than in the Canadian population.
Health Canada. 2021. Parabens in Canadians. Ottawa, ON. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/environmental-contaminants/human-biomonitoring-resources/parabens-canadians.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. Atlanta, GA, USA.
- Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada. 2020. Draft Screening Assessment: Parabens Group. Ottawa, ON, Canada.
- Health Canada. 2015. Third Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada: Results of the Canadian Health Measures Survey Cycle 3 (2012–2013). Ottawa, ON, Canada.
- Health Canada. 2017. Fourth Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada: Results of the Canadian Health Measures Survey Cycle 4 (2014–2015). Ottawa, ON, Canada.
- Health Canada. 2019. Fifth Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada: Results of the Canadian Health Measures Survey Cycle 5 (2016–2017). Ottawa, ON, Canada.
- Health Canada. 2021. Sixth Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada: Results of the Canadian Health Measures Survey Cycle 6 (2018–2019). Ottawa, ON, Canada.
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