The environmental group is warning consumers to be cautious when it comes to nano-containing products and calling on the industry and government to instigate pre-market testing.
Friends of the Earth’s report details eight reasons why consumers should be wary of nanomaterials in sunscreens as well stating there is no evidence that they improve protection.
“Consumers must be aware that nanomaterials are being put into sunscreens with very little evidence about their safety and relative efficacy,” said one of the report authors and Friends of the Earth’s health and environment campaigner Ian Illuminato.
A large number of sunscreen products use nanosize particles of the physical UV filters, zinc and titanium. This allows them to spread more easily, giving better coverage without leaving the white film traditionally associated with high SPF products.
In addition, according to some suppliers nano-titanium dioxide and -zinc oxide are more effective at blocking UV rays than their larger counterparts.
The Friends of the Earth report cites a study in 2007 by the Consumer’s Union that concluded there was no correlation between nanomaterial content and sun protection.
This conclusion is in contrast to that of fellow consumer organisation Environmental Working Group which stated back in May that the benefits of nanosize UV filters outweighed their risks.
Nanoparticles behave differently
According to the recent Friends of the Earth report these risks include the affect their small size has on the particles’ properties, namely their ability to penetrate the skin and the body’s systems.
“In the body, nanomaterials have much greater access to vulnerable organs and tissues,” the report claims.
Although the report recognizes that studies to date show little, if any, skin penetration, it claims that in damaged skin penetration could be much higher.
It also highlights potential dangers for workers involved in the manufacture of nano-containing products as well as the environment.
The report calls for government and industry to demand testing and approval of nano-containing products before commercialization, for products containing nanoparticles to be labelled as such and for extra support for research into the impacts of nanoparticles on human health and the environment.