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Posted: October 30, 2008

Test reveals nanoparticles present in 80% of sunscreens, even when companies claim they are not

(Nanowerk News) Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, today released new product tests showing that 4 out of 5 sunscreens that claimed not to contain nanoparticles actually do contain them. Consumers Union urged the FDA to require a full safety assessment, stating that the nanoparticles appear widespread in mineral-based sunscreens and are difficult to avoid in these products.
"The widespread use of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in sunscreen is involving consumers in a vast experiment as to the safety of these products," said Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Consumers Union. "These very tiny nano-size particles are known to have different properties than the conventional versions of these chemicals that could be harmful to health. The FDA should require safety data for all these nanoparticles, and at the very least, they should require companies to be truthful about whether or not they are using nano-ingredients."
Because some consumers might want to buy sunscreens that do not contain these untested ingredients, Consumer Reports decided to see if such products are available. Consumer Reports commissioned tests of five brands of sunscreen that company representatives stated did not contain nano-size particles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Four of them, all labeled natural or organic, actually did contain nanoparticles: Aubrey Organics Natural Sun SPF 25 Green Tea Protective Sunscreen, Badger SPF 30 Sunscreen, Kiss My Face SPF 30+ Sun Screen with oat protein complex and Mexitan SPF 30 Sunscreen. Only one product - Zinka Colored Nosecoat - turned out to be actually free of the particles.
Sunscreen manufacturers use nano-size particles of these ingredients because they help make the products clear rather than opaque, something consumers may prefer. Tests Consumer Reports commissioned to an outside lab, released in 2007, found that 8 out of 8 sunscreens that included zinc oxide or titanium dioxide contained nanoparticles. Only one disclosed this fact on the label; the others said nothing about whether they contained the particles.
Scientific studies have raised questions about possible safety risks with nanoparticles of sunscreen ingredients. The European Union has already required manufacturers to submit data demonstrating the safety of sunscreens containing nanoparticles. In a letter to FDA, Consumers Union urged the agency to do the same, and to require products containing nanoparticles to state that fact on the label, and to prevent untruthful claims as to absence of these nanoparticles.
Source: Consumers Union (press release)