Lobby groups question cosmetic nano ingredients

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Zinc oxide Sunscreen Ultraviolet

Eight lobby groups in the US have combined to petition the USFDA
into tightening regulations over nanotechnology-based ingredients
contained in sunscreens and other cosmetics products.

The groups says that the submicroscopic particles contained in the ingredients could pose a threat to human health and should be taken off the market until comprehensive testing can be carried out to prove their safety.

In particular the petition targets nano-sized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreen ingredients, which, because of their size, could pose a possible risk of inflammatory and immune responses in certain individuals.

The eight lobby group, which included Friends of the Earth and The International Center for Technology Assessment, are attempting to draw attention to the fact that all the leading industry players are promoting products that incorporate nanotechnology, despite questions still surrounding its safety.

A report by Friends of the Earth entitled 'Nanomaterials, Sunscreens and Cosmetics: Small Ingredients, Big Risks', details the use of nanomaterials in 116 sunscreen, cosmetic and personal care products currently available on the market.

The environmental group claims that many of these products are on the market despite a lack of independent safety assessment and regulation, as well as the fact that research has shown that many nanomaterials pose potential risks to human health.

"Engineered nanoparticles are being used in virtually every type of personal care product on the market, from sunscreens and anti-aging creams to toothpastes, despite preliminary scientific evidence that many types of nanoparticles can be toxic,"​ said Lisa Archer, Senior Health and Environment Campaigner with Friends of the Earth US.

"Corporations should stop marketing nano-laced products until these materials are proven safe and stop treating their customers like guinea pigs," she added.

Nanotechnology allows certain particles in cosmetics ingredients to be developed at a fraction of their normal size, a nanometer being one billionth of a metre. But because they are so small, nanoparticles also up the risk of toxicity as there is a possibility that they can penetrate the skins inner layers, with the possibility of entering the blood stream.

Scientific reports published by the UK's Royal Society have even pointed to the possibility that reducing the size of particles can alter the chemical balance, which could have a variety of repercussions that remain to be studied.

Friends of the Earth says it is particularly concerned by cosmetics companies using ingredients that include nano-scale metal oxides, carbon spheres called 'fullerenes' and 'nanocapsules', all designed to penetrate deep into the skin.

Although carbon fullerenes make a highly effective delivery vehicle for active ingredients used in anti-aging and moisturizing treatments, the lobby groups say they are worried by the potential risk of toxicity.

Likewise, the groups have stressed that nonoparticles popularly used in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sun care formulas have been shown to be photoactive, producing free radicals and causing DNA damage to skin cells when exposed to UV light.

Meanwhile the FDA has said that it is planning a meeting in October to discuss new kinds of nanomaterials that are being developed for use in cosmetic products and said that it will also review the points made in the petition presented by the lobby groups.

However, the FDA says it still has no concrete evidence of safety concerns that might cause it to change current regulations.

Related topics Formulation & Science Skin Care

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