Cutting chemical cocktails in sunscreens can conserve aquatic life, study finds
08 Aug 2022 --- According to researchers from the Universidad de Cantabria and Universitario Río San Pedro, Spain, chemicals used in sunscreen products are harmful to marine life and aquatic biota. The study suggests that the harmful chemicals ought to be replaced by more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Sunscreens have evolved into a product based on more complicated formulas that incorporate, among other things, a blend of UV filters to give optimal UV radiation protection from the sun.
According to the researchers, a substantial body of scientific literature examines the influence of UV filters on aquatic mediums. However, to understand the skincare product’s interaction with live species, they say it is necessary to assess its environmental occurrence and consequences on the aquatic environment.
The research serves as a catalyst for change in the personal care and cosmetics sector, encouraging the use of R&D strategies to look for new ecological alternatives.
The study aligns with a study by Stanford University which concluded that the commonly used sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone, can be converted into a potentially deadly phototoxin inside anemone and coral cells when exposed to sunlight, resulting in increased damage and maybe death.
Tourist tanners tainting marine life
Sunscreens are alarmingly one of the numerous growing toxins that enter the water and harm the environment.
This has been in discussion by the scientific community in recent years as the environmental effects of some ingredients used in the preparation of sunscreens harm the aquatic environment once they are released into it.
The prevalence of these goods in the marine environment has grown due to the rise in sun-related tourism, raising concerns about possible threats to marine ecology, which are mostly brought on by the UV chemical filters, both organic and chemical, found in sunscreens.
Acting to aid the aquatics
Specific substances, such as Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3) and Octinoxate (Octyl methoxycinnamate), used in these products have been outlawed in various countries and regions, especially coastal and highly touristed areas (for example Hawaii, Palau and Thailand) when these negative impacts on marine life and ecosystems were confirmed.
The researchers anticipate potential harmful effects on the marine environment by analyzing and predicting the release, behavior, and destiny of chemicals found in sunscreen creams when they come into contact with saltwater.
The development of a general modeling method allows us to model this complex (from an environmental point of view) data based on chemical cocktails. It necessitates minimizing and managing the harm sunscreen usage causes to aquatic environments.
Coral-lational study method
In the study, the researchers critically analyze the models that have been researched in the literature to describe how these ecologically toxic compounds and their related constituents behave and change in aquatic media.
The scientists use hydrodynamic and kinetic models to examine the physical-chemical characteristics, photodegradation, and release kinetics of particles and chemicals into the water.
Toxicokinetic models, which forecast their bio-accumulation in the tissues of the organisms, are mostly used to study how UV filters interact with marine biota. These models treat the intake, excretion and transport of the chemicals inside and between internal animal organs as a first-order kinetic process.
The suggested models differ in that the first focuses on chemical intake while the second focuses on the number of internal organ compartments, such as the gills, digestive system, and internal organs, that are taken into account.
The parameters that were obtained from the models for each species and the chemical used for the analysis allowed the researchers to monitor the pollution levels in coastal areas, as well as the quality of the ecosystem.
The study mentions the need for more accurate and realistic modeling of skincare products as well as for all new toxins in general.
Findings promote formula restrictions
Environmental concerns are a driving force behind the development of environmentally friendly formulations since some ingredients in UV protection formulae are restricted – owing to the effects of their release and transformation in an aquatic environment.
The researchers were able to forecast the fate and concentrations of the chemicals researched, and consequently, the possible adverse effects on the aquatic ecosystem, by analyzing and modeling the release and behavior of sunscreen components into the marine environment, including aquatic creatures.
For these compounds, the modeling technique proved a helpful prediction tool and can be very beneficial to environmental managers and stakeholders.
The implementation of these models was, however, constrained by the sunscreen matrix’s complexity – because of the number of components – and variety – according to brand or format – as well as the marine ecosystem’s numerous compartments and environmental factors.
The findings thus include that, in order to predict the potential effects of these emerging products and to inform future effective coastal-protection strategies and conservation policies based on sustainable tourism, future research should concentrate on the development of models that take the aforementioned factors into account.
However, the study highlights, amid the scientific restrictions, that chemicals frequently used in UV-protecting skincare products should be reduced and controlled in order to mitigate the damage that sunscreen use has on aquatic ecosystems.
Moreover, the European Commission published an amended regulation regarding a limit to the use of the UV filters Benzophenone-3 and Octocrylene in cosmetic products due to endocrine-disrupting properties flagged by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety .
By Mieke Meintjes
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