Differential effects of exposure to select parabens on morbidity from asthma, based on sex, have been observed in children, according to the results of a cross-sectional study conducted in a US general pediatric population that participated in the 2005 to 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Findings from the analysis were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Investigators sought to explore current concerns about possible associations between the antimicrobial- and endocrine-disrupting properties of parabens (synthetic preservatives that are present in many consumer products) and their role in pediatric respiratory and allergic disorders. To date, few epidemiologic studies have examined this role, and the results have been inconsistent.

Of 4023 children aged 6 to 19 years with paraben biomarker data who participated in NHANES, a total of 450 with asthma and asthma prevalence were evaluated regarding a possible cross-sectional link between parabens and asthma-related morbidity. A multivariable logistic regression was performed to examine the associations between urinary paraben biomarker concentrations (ie, butyl-BP, ethyl-EP, methyl-MP, and propyl-PP) and asthma attacks and emergency department (ED) visits in children with asthma. The researchers also assessed heterogeneity associations according to sex.

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No overall associations between any of the parabens and the reporting of asthma attacks or ED visits were observed in the prior 12 months in children with asthma in either the unadjusted or adjusted analyses. However, a significant effect modification by sex for ED visits in the prior 12 months was observed in boys with asthma for both methyl and propyl paraben levels (P value for interaction [Pint] <.003). In fact, for every 10-fold rise in methyl and propyl concentrations, there was a 2.61 (95% CI, 1.40-4.85; P =.003) and a 2.18 (95% CI, 1.22-3.89; P =.01) increased prevalence odds ratio, respectively, of reporting an ED visit in the last 12 months in boys with current asthma.

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The investigators concluded that additional studies are warranted to replicate these findings. Future research should focus on elucidating the mechanisms via which parabens might affect development, morbidity, or severity of respiratory health and eliciting dimorphic effects by sex.


Quirós-Alcalá L, Hansel NN, McCormack MC, Matsui EC. Paraben exposures and asthma-related outcomes among children from the U.S. general population [published online September 5, 2018]. J Allergy Clin Immunol. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2018.08.021