Nanoparticles in sunscreens and other places

Whodathunkit? Sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles are safer and more effective than the sunscreens without them. Thanks to Andrew Maynard at 2020 Science there’s an overview of the results, the study, and, most importantly, the source for the study’s report. Maynard (chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies) also offers a few comments about environmental and health concerns and the need for more research into the use of nanoparticles in cosmetic/beauty products.

The EWG (Environmental Working Group) is, according to Maynard, not usually friendly to industry and they had this to say about their own predisposition prior to reviewing the data (from EWG),

When we began our sunscreen investigation at the Environmental Working Group, our researchers thought we would ultimately recommend against micronized and nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreens. After all, no one has taken a more expansive and critical look than EWG at the use of nanoparticles in cosmetics and sunscreens, including the lack of definitive safety data and consumer information on these common new ingredients, and few substances more dramatically highlight gaps in our system of public health protections than the raw materials used in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology. But many months and nearly 400 peer-reviewed studies later, we find ourselves drawing a different conclusion, and recommending some sunscreens that may contain nano-sized ingredients.

There is a proviso to their evaluation and it’s standard science talk. The conclusion is based on the current evidence, which means that someone might or might not discover a problem tomorrow.

I commented about an article on sunscreens, which covered some material about nanoparticle concerns, in a fashion magazine here.

Meanwhile, the concern over silver nanoparticles continues. The Australian branch of Friends of the Earth (FOE) has issued a report urging caution. From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation article by Anna Saleh

Associate Professor Tom Faunce, an expert in the medical and regulatory aspects of nanotechnology at the Australian National University in Canberra says because nano-silver is very useful in medicine, he does not support the call for a total moratorium on nano-silver.

But he thinks there does need to be some restraint on its use.

“There is accumulating evidence now that if nano-silver use is left unrestrained and it enters the waterways in large amounts, this will be dangerous to the environment,” says Faunce.

I am relieved to hear about the nanoparticles in sunscreens and not surprised about the caution regarding silver nanoparticles. After scanning the internet for information about nanotechnology over the last 2.5 years or so, there are two major areas of concern (from my neophyte’s perspective), silver nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes (the ones that resemble asbestos fibres).

Regardless of the EWG’s conclusions, I’m pretty sure there are people out there who will reject the findings because they don’t like the idea of nanoparticles in anything, anywhere, anytime.

Tomorrow a little nano haiku courtesy of NISE network.

6 thoughts on “Nanoparticles in sunscreens and other places

  1. BaxDoc

    Very interesting post, Frogheart. I had been curious about the titanium oxide etc. sunscreens, being possessed of the kind of skin that not only freckles but reacts badly to the sun. I’ve used the titanium sunscreens and can attest to the EWG report’s conclusions on a personal level, insofar as they tend to ‘sit’ on the skin and feel and look like a physical barrier. (Of course one has to be careful not to walk outdoors looking like a somewhat demented mime.) Mega informative. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of organizations pick up on this post, it synthesizes the information beautifully. Thank you!
    So many technologies – from agribusiness to medicine to sunscreens – have made it into the shelves and into our lives without our being aware of them. Verges on the terrifying at times, if one thinks too much about it. So it’s good to know that at least in this one area, ‘block’ sunscreens with titanium compounds, are – if not perfect- safer than the sorts that sink into your skin and are absorbed.
    On a totally different note, either you or blog hosting outfit has clearly done something; your blog was down yesterday (it just said ‘database error) and today I see that when I type my comments it runs more smoothly. Before, there was a time lag and occasionally a hiccup of sorts. So that’s good.
    Write on!
    cheers, IB

  2. admin

    Hi Inkbat/BaxDoc! I always think that personal stories which affirm scientific conclusions pack an extra punch. Thank you and I’m glad that you found the summary useful (and thank goodness, that you find commenting is easier).

  3. Pingback: Friends of the Earth and sunscreens; update on RUSNANO « FrogHeart

  4. Pingback: Sunscreen season and the latest from the Environmental Working Group « FrogHeart

  5. Pingback: Not enough data to assess risk for nanoscreens? « FrogHeart

  6. Pingback: Nature and nanotechnology: metaphor and narratives « FrogHeart

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *