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How Toxic is Sunscreen?

On March 5, a study conducted by Australia’s National Measurement Institute was released by Friends of the Earth U.S. and Australia. The study measured the levels of titanium dioxide, a potentially toxic yet common ingredient, in sunscreen and other cosmetics.

After evaluating eight products of major cosmetic brands, six were found to contain titanium dioxide. Specifically anatase titanium dioxide, a chemical that Italian scientists have warned as being “capable of destroying virtually any organic matter”, and nano anatase titanium dioxide.

Results found that Nivea Kids Swim and Play Sunscreen, L’Oreal Infallable Advanced Never Fail Make-up, CoverGirl NatureLuxe Liquid Silk Foundation, and Australis Powder Cream Make-up all contained nano anatase titanium dioxide.

While anatase titanium dioxide was found in Coco Island White Zinc Sunscreen and Key Sun White Zinke Sunscreen. These products are predominately sold in Australia, but are sold in the U.S. and other global markets as well.

While it is important to protect our skins from ultra-violet light, using sunscreen with titanium dioxide can pose its own risks.

In 2008, workers in Australia, who used sunscreen with nano anatase titanium dioxide, transferred amounts of the ingredient to the building’s roofs through contact. Within a matter of weeks, the nano-ingredient reacted to the sunlight and began to break down the roof’s coating.

Reports on this event found the nano anatase in the sunscreen caused the roof to become a hundred times more susceptible to sun damage.

This is a frightening scenario considering the sensitivity of our skin, especially in the developing skin of children, which is much thinner.

The problem is, brands are not legally obligated to include these ingredients on their labels. Thus making it hard for citizens to make an informed decision to avoid these nano-ingredients. One way to know for sure if the sunscreen you use is safe is to contact the manufacturer. Ask them if their product contains either ingredient.

Friends of the Earth is currently asking, via an online petition, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration test the safety of these ingredients.

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