New Report From Public Interest Groups Warns of Risks From Nanomaterials in Sunscreens

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth, 250-478-7135, iilluminato@foe.org

George Kimbrell, International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), 571-527-8618, gkimbrell@icta.org

Michael Hansen, Consumers Union, 914-378-2452, hansmi@consumer.org

New Report From Public Interest Groups Warns of Risks From Nanomaterials in Sunscreens

WASHINGTON - Friends of the Earth, Consumers Union, and the
International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA)
released a report
today detailing why consumers should be wary of sunscreens that contain
nanomaterials.

Engineered nanomaterials are widely used in sunscreens to
make sun-blocking ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide rub on clear
instead of white.  These materials have been shown to exhibit different
fundamental physical, biological, and chemical properties than their larger
counterparts. The report indicates that very few nanomaterials have been
adequately tested, though the limited data that is available shows that their
small size makes them more able to enter the lungs, pass through cell
membranes, and possibly penetrate damaged or sun-burnt skin.

"Nano-sunscreens are being promoted as safe sun
protection, but the evidence of potential risk we've collected shows
otherwise," said Friends of the Earth's Health and Environment
Campaigner Ian Illuminato, one of the report's authors. "Consumers
must be aware that nanomaterials are being put into sunscreens with very little
evidence about their safety and relative efficacy."

In 2007 Consumer Reports (published by Consumers Union)
tested sunscreens containing nanomaterials and found no correlation between
their presence and sun protection. Consumer Reports testing found 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, PhD,
co-author of the report and senior scientist at Consumers Union.

Studies have raised red flags about the environmental
impacts that may stem from the release of nanomaterials into broader ecosystems.
Once released into the environment, many nanomaterials may persist and
accumulate as pollutants in air, soil or water. A 2006 study demonstrated that
some forms of titanium dioxide nanoparticles (popular ingredients in nano
sunscreens) are toxic to algae and water fleas, especially after exposure to UV
light. Algae and water fleas are a vital part of marine ecosystems.

"No labeling is required for any product that
contains nanomaterials, including sunscreens," said George Kimbrell,
Staff Attorney at ICTA. "Nor are nano sunscreens assessed and approved
before being allowed on markets.  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."

Nanomaterials reflect a convergence of chemistry, physics,
and engineering at the nanoscale to take advantage of unique physical
properties associated with chemicals in this small size range. 
Nanoparticles are measured in nanometers (nm); one nanometer is billionth of a
meter. One nanometer is roughly 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human
hair.

The report can be viewed at http://www.foe.org/nano-sunscreens-not-worth-risk.

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Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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