Friends of the Earth call for moratorium on nano sunscreens

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nanoparticles Products Nanotechnology

Friends of the Earth has recently released a report on the presence
of nanotech particles in sunscreens, appealing to consumers to
lobby the industry and calling for a moratorium on products
containing nanoparticles.

The 13 page report, published earlier this month, outlines some of the possible dangers of nanotechnology in sunscreen, listing 'safe' nano-free products, whilst calling for consumer action to help lobby the industry.

The report contains a section advising the consumer what action can be taken, for example contacting sunscreen companies to demand that they confirm the presence and absence of nanoparticles in their products, as well as telling the FDA to stop ignoring the issue by sending a letter via the Friends of the Earth website.

The organisation itself is calling for a moratorium on the commercial release of all nanotechnological materials and products until various conditions are met.

Conditions stipulate the rigorous testing of nanomaterials and products - including their environmental impact - prior to release, an improvement in product labelling and that all relevant data is available in the public domain.

In addition, the report contains an appendix of products the organisation has labelled green, yellow or red - products that according to the retailer contain no nanoparticles, which the retailer will not provide information, and that the retailer confirms contain nanoparticles.

Out of over 120 products that appear in the survey only nine are classified as green, including Aubrey Organics, Alba Botanica and Schwarzkopf and Henkel.

There are 95 products for which the retailer refused to provide information, and 24 that the retailer confirms contain nanoparticles.

The aim of the report is to inform consumers where governments have allegedly failed, with the report stating that 'no government has yet established regulation to protect consumers from nanotechnology's risks or even allow the public to make informed choices through proper labelling.'

'Nanoparticles can potentially wreak havoc on out health if absorbed through the skin' the report states, referencing various scientific studies that suggest nanoparticles used in sunscreen can do damage to DNA, disrupt the function of cells and lead to cell death.

The report follows the release of the results from the FDA's Nanotechnology Task Force in late July.

This document, although expressing concern over the FDAs ability to obtain information about the presence of nanoparticles in personal care products, does not call for a system of compulsory labelling.

The Task Force state that this is because 'current science does not support a finding that classes of products with nanoscale materials necessarily pose greater safety concerns' .

In contrast, in the UK, both the Royal Society and the Academy of Engineering (who were commissioned in 2004 by the UK government to investigate the safety of nanotechnology) have expressed concern over the slow progress of the government towards addressing possible nanotechnology concerns.

The original 2004 report warned that nanoparticles should be treated as new chemicals and subject to rigorous safety testing prior to commercial release; recommendations that they believe have not been taken into consideration with sufficient speed.

The EU-wide position is similarly in development, with the EU recently launching a consultation on a voluntary code of conduct that researchers and companies can use when developing nanotechnology products.

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