Personal Care Products Council flags “insufficient evidence” to reliably support sunscreen bans
11 Aug 2022 --- A National Academies of Sciences (NAS) report titled Review of Fate, Exposure, and Effects of Sunscreens in Aquatic Environments and Implications for Sunscreen Usage and Human Health, has garnered attention from the industry and called for more scientific study on the use of sunscreens and their implication on aquatic environments.
“The key conclusions confirm Personal Care Products Council’s (PCPC) long-held position that there is currently insufficient relevant and reliable scientific data to conduct realistic ecological risk assessments (ERA) and there is not enough scientific data to support sunscreen ingredient bans,” the PCPC remarks in response to the published report.
“Policymakers, regulators and legislators should not make any decisions that impact consumers’ access to FDA-approved sunscreen UV filters until the scientific community reaches an informed consensus.”
PCPC’s statement comes as the European Commission recently published an amended regulation regarding a limit to the use of the UV filters Benzophenone-3 and Octocrylene in cosmetic products.
“The new maximum limits and restrictions recommended by the SCCS in its latest opinions on Benzophenone-3 and Octocrylene allow for their safe use in cosmetic products,” a commission official shared with PersonalCareInsights.
“Sunscreen use is a critical”
Innovative sunscreen products are important as they help protect consumers from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays.
If consumers reduced their use of commercialized sunscreens because of regulatory restrictions or perceived environmental risks, despite some recognized knowledge gaps, PCPC highlights that there could be significant potential adverse public health impacts of increased UV-induced skin cancers.
The council says they are committed to fill the environmental and health data gaps identified by NAS. “Our industry’s research aims to develop UV sunscreen environmental monitoring data, a validated standardized toxicity testing model for coral and a multi-tiered ERA model for sunscreen UV filters that realistically reflects what occurs in nature.”
NAS safety recommendations
Two recommendations have been suggested by NAS, on the basis of the detailed study.
Firstly, it underscores that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should conduct an ERA for all currently marketed UV filters and any new ones that become available, which should then be shared with the FDA for their considerations of the environment in the oversight of UV filters.
Secondly, it recommends that the EPA, partner agencies and sunscreen formulators and UV filter manufacturers should conduct, fund or support, and share research and data to improve collection of the various types of relevant data needed for ERA and to ensure public and environmental health safety.
Impacts of UV filters on skin cells
The NAS report in question examined the state of science on the sources and inputs, fate, exposure and effects of active ingredients in UV filters in aquatic environments, and the availability and applicability of data for conducting ERA.
The comprehensive report also focused on human health to study the efficacy of sunscreen in preventing UV damage to the skin and resulting health impacts related to skin cancer.
There are currently 16 generic and one proprietary UV filters approved by the FDA for use in any sunscreen sold in the US, including two inorganic particulates – titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Additionally, US and China based researchers recently flagged that titanium dioxide nanoparticles in sunscreens can cause skin cell damage, with the potential to result in DNA skin cell mutations that can be passed to daughter cells, resulting in tumor formation. Additionally, zinc oxide nanoparticles have been found to have cytotoxic effects on various mammalian cell lines.
Global and local stressors
According to the findings of NSA study, “Risks that UV filters may pose to aquatic ecosystems will occur within the context of other global (e.g. climate change variables) and local stressors (e.g. pollution and physical damage).”
The rising temperatures have been shown to be a major stressor on its own, but also known to exacerbate the effects of toxicants.
On the other hand, the study states that the use of broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen when outdoors has proven to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, photoaging and sunburn.
According to researchers from the Universidad de Cantabria and Universitario Río San Pedro, Spain, chemicals used in sunscreen products ought to be replaced by more environmentally friendly alternatives as they cause harm to marine life.
Another study done by researchers at Stanford University flagged oxybenzone – a popular UV filter – as unsafe for corals. “The finding that oxybenzone sunscreen is more toxic to bleached anemones could suggest that it’s also more toxic to bleached corals and would exacerbate the negative effects of warming,” says Djordje Vuckovic, Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, in a podcast.
Earlier this year, Holland & Barrett UK became the first large retailer in the UK to ban the sale of all sun care products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate from its stores and website to ensure its sun care range is reef-safe.
Furthermore, in order to promote coral-safe sunscreen, Mblue Labs introduced a methylene blue-based (MB) sunscreen Bluevado SunFix, developed on the basis of a research collaboration with the University of Maryland.
By Radhika Sikaria
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