Sunscreens containing nanoparticles alarms consumer group

The consumer group CHOICE is demanding more honesty from sunscreen manufacturers after many leading brands were found to contain nanoparticles. There is controversy as to whether the particles, which are smaller than 100 billionths of a meter, can penetrate the skin and have harmful side-effects, says CHOICE. However many of these sunscreens contain nano-grade titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that enable them to offer the same sun protection but go on clear and with less skin residue.

CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn said this Monday, “The jury is out on whether nanoparticles found in sunscreens can penetrate the skin and make their way to living cells…We say these ingredients should be proven safe before they come on to the market…In the meantime, nanoparticles should be labeled on products so consumers can avoid them if they're concerned.”

CHOICE conducted its tests on 12 SPF 30+ sunscreens and found nanoparticles in eight, although only one sample of L'Oreal UV Perfect contained a significant amount. Of the four nano-free products tested, Mr Zinn said Cancer Council Classic Sunscreen were found not to have “chemical absorbers” which have their own endocrine-disrupting concerns. Mr Zinn said some scientists have warned that nanoparticles could be absorbed through the skin, or hair, and this could cause cell damage.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration stepped in with two research reviews and concluded that there was evidence zinc oxide and titanium may damage cells though it was questionable whether nanoparticles could penetrate the body's outer “dead” layer of skin.

Mr. Zinn however went on to say that, “When it comes to sun protection, 'slip, slop and slap' is still good advice but we need to be sure that with nano ingredients, the 'slopping' doesn't do more harm than good.”

Those tested that contained low levels of nanoparticles included Woolworths Select Clear Zinc, UV Tripleguard Summer Skin Sunscreen Lotion, Coles Sports Clear Zinc, Ego Sun Sense Toddler Milk, Chemmart Clear Zinc, Le Tan Daily Mineral Moisturising Sunscreen and Invisible Zinc and The Cancer Council Classic Sunscreen. The ones that were nano particle free were Cancer Council Classic Sunscreen, Nivea Sun Moisturising Sunscreen Lotion, Hamilton Everyday Face Sunscreen and Banana Boat Sensitive Sunscreen.

Australia exhibits one of the highest rates of skin cancer incidence in the world, almost four times the rates registered in the United States, the UK and Canada. Around 434,000 people receive treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers and 10,300 are treated for melanoma. Melanoma is the common type of cancer in people between 15- 44 years in Australia.

More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States, which makes it the most common form of cancer in that country. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point of their lives.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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