Warn­ing on health risks of sun­screen

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page -

NEW RE­SEARCH con­ducted in Hong Kong has found that UV fil­ters com­monly used in sun­screen are pol­lut­ing sur­round­ing wa­ters and could en­dan­ger hu­man health, one of the city’s lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties has an­nounced. An “ex­ten­sive amount” of seven com­mon UV fil­ter chem­i­cals was found in Hong Kong sea­wa­ter as well as in fish, shrimps and mus­sels on aqua-farms, sci­en­tists from Hong Kong Bap­tist Uni­ver­sity told re­porters. “The ef­fect of these con­tam­i­nants pass­ing along the food chain to hu­mans and the long-term im­pact on hu­man fer­til­ity can­not be ne­glected,” said Dr Kelvin Le­ung, who led the re­search.

Tests per­formed on ze­brafish, which share a sim­i­lar ge­netic struc­ture to hu­mans, showed the pol­luted wa­ter caused ab­nor­mal­i­ties and a higher mor­tal­ity rate in the fish’s em­bryos as the chem­i­cals en­tered the food chain. The uni­ver­sity de­scribed the study as a world-first in iden­ti­fy­ing the harm caused by a com­bi­na­tion of pol­lut­ing chem­i­cals in sun­screen. Re­searchers said they would con­duct fur­ther tests to learn more about the ef­fects of UV fil­ters on the hu­man body.

The chem­i­cals tested on the ze­brafish study in­cluded oc­tocry­lene (known as OC), ben­zophe­none-3 (known as BP-3) and ethyl­hexyl methoxycin­na­mate (known as EHMC), which were found to be the most abun­dant types of chem­i­cal UV fil­ters in Hong Kong wa­ters. The Euro­pean Union’s In­ter­na­tional Chem­i­cal Sec­re­tariat has al­ready es­tab­lished BP-3 as a threat to hu­man health and called for it to be re­placed with an­other, safer in­gre­di­ent. Dr Le­ung added that these chem­i­cals can ac­cu­mu­late in the hu­man body and can­not be dis­solved or di­luted sim­ply by drink­ing wa­ter.

There is grow­ing in­ter­na­tional con­cern over the pol­lut­ing ef­fects of sun­screen. Hawaii signed a bill in July to ban sunscreens con­tain­ing chem­i­cals harm­ful to coral reefs, which will take ef­fect from 2021. But the ban raised con­cerns that it may de­ter con­sumers from us­ing sun­screen to pro­tect their skin from can­cer. Le­ung called for more reg­u­la­tions on the use of chem­i­cals in per­sonal care prod­ucts and rec­om­mended con­sumers use min­eral-based sunscreens such as ti­ta­nium diox­ide and zinc ox­ide, or wear sun-pro­tec­tion cloth­ing.

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