Nanoparticles in sunscreens have more to do with looks than safety, but are they safe?

Cutting edge nanoscience has put an end to the icky white coating of old sunscreens that that prevented the sun from harming your skin.

Image from clipartheaven

Image from clipartheaven

But scientists for consumer and environmental groups say that while nanosized sun-blocking ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide now rub on clear instead of white, very few of the engineered materials have been tested for safety.

The limited data that is available shows that the particle’s small size makes them more able to enter the lungs, pass through cell membranes, and possibly penetrate damaged or sun-burnt skin, says a report issued today by Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth and the International Center for Technology Assessment.

The report urges that consumers be wary of sunscreens that contain nanomaterials.

In 2007, Consumer Reports tested sunscreens containing nanomaterials and found no correlation between their presence and sun protection and that “neither nanoscale zinc nor titanium oxides provide a clear and consistent performance advantage over other active ingredients.”

“Adding nanoparticles to sunscreens means adding an unnecessary potential risk to our health and to the environment, with no significant gain. Why take the chance?” asked Michael Hansen, co-author of the report and senior scientist at Consumers Union

To make matters worse, most consumers have no idea they’re coating their skin and their children’s skin with material that hasn’t been tested for safety.

George Kimbrell, a lawyer for the Center for Technology Assessment says no labeling is required for any product that contains nanomaterials, including sunscreens.

He adds: “We need the government to regulate these novel products, including requiring labeling if they are approved so that consumers can make informed choices about what they place on their bodies and their families.”

Nanoparticles are measured in nanometers; one nanometer is billionth of a meter. One nanometer is roughly 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Here is a link to a PDF of the report”   FoE_CU_ICTA_Nano-sunscreens_Report


Nanoparticles in sunscreens have more to do with looks than safety, but are they safe? — 1 Comment

  1. Andy, I’m checking out your blog for the first time and really like it! Very happy to find that you’re still stirring the proverbial pot. I’m trying to do the same in Jacksonville, Fla.

    Wish you all the best,


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