Nano Sunscreens Warning Flagged

In Australia Friends of the Earth (FOE)* report that with the help of students from Trinity College, Colac, they have completed a Citizen Science Experiment investigating the effect that a number of popular Australian sunscreens have on the coating of Colorbond steel and on varnished timber.

FOE state that the experiment replicated a 2008 study** which found that nanoparticles of anatase titanium dioxide in sunscreen were reacting with sunlight and aggressively producing free radicals which broke down the coating on Colorbond steel 100 times faster than would normally occur and that this new experiment found that several popular sunscreens caused serious damage to wood varnish.”

Louise Sales, Nanotechnology Project Coordinator with Friends of the Earth, said ‘when nanoparticles in sunscreen are able to completely strip wood varnish in a matter of weeks this raises serious questions about what these ingredients could be doing to our skin, especially when scientists have warned that anatase titanium dioxide is ‘capable of destroying virtually any organic matter’ and questioned its use in sunscreens.

”Friends of the Earth report that the Citizen Science Experiment repeated the exterior exposure testing of the 2008 study by industrial chemists Phil Barker and Amos Branch from Blue Scope Steel, that measured the extent of gloss reduction in pre-painted steel products that were exposed to different sunscreen formulations over a 12-week period and that this new experiment also investigated the extent of gloss reduction in wood panels coated with a popular weatherproof timber varnish.”’

We understand several Australian sunscreens have reformulated to avoid using anatase titanium dioxide, following the Blue Scope Steel findings. The results from the Colorbond exposure experiment were inconclusive; however, clear trends emerged from the timber panel exposure experiment. It was found that almost all sunscreens affected the polyurethane timber varnish. However, the highest levels of gloss reduction were found in a product known to contain nanoparticles of anatase titanium dioxide’ said Ms Sales.

”’At Friends of the Earth we are calling on the Government to urgently ban the use of anatase titanium dioxide in sunscreen. They also need to ensure that any other nano-ingredients in sunscreen are labelled and undergo stringent safety testing,’ concluded Ms Sales.

In related news Europe has regulated the use of nano-ingredients in sunscreen and cosmetics and Friends of the Earth is now calling for similar regulation in Australia to ensure consumer safety and choice.

Louise Sales speaks again for FOE saying: ‘while the European scheme is not perfect, at least regulators there are attempting to assess the risks posed by nano-materials and to protect consumer choice. In Australia the use of nano-ingredients in sunscreen remains unregulated’.

*Friends of the Earth are an organisation working towards an ecologically sustainable and socially just future. A grassroots organisation that is active in more than 70 countries across the globe

‘**Link to the 2008 study
Read more about the experiment’
Watch this short video about the study

For more information contact Louise Sales +61  (0) 435 589 579””

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