Scientists at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in Coleraine, Northern Ireland have received a European Union grant of nearly $500,000 to determine whether or not the tiny particles can penetrate brain tissue and cause problems.
As well as Alzheimers, the NeuroNano project will look at the effects of these particles on parkinson’s disease, both of which are most commonly associated with the elderly.
Titanium dioxide under the spotlight
The study, which will also involve scientists from a host of other universities, including Dublin, Cork and Edinburgh, will look specifically at man-made nano sunscreens ingredients such as titanium dioxide to determine their exact impact.
Scientists say that there is research to prove that such particles have entered the brains of small animals by either intravenous means, from topical application for example, or by entering the lungs having been breathed in.
According to Professor Vyvyan Howard, who ijointly heading up the project with Dr Christian Holsten, the evidence has shown that the particles can become lodged in specific parts of the brain where there are no clearance mechanisms.
Industry and regulatory bodies may need to take note
Howard speculates that if the scientific research his team is conducting throws up further evidence of this nature, the study is likely to have a significant impact on government, regulation bodies and the personal care industry.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth recently released a report suggesting that nano-based sunscreens do not increase sun protection and can also pose a number of potential health problems.
The environmental group warned consumers to be cautious when it comes to nano-containing products and called on the industry and government to instigate pre-market testing.
Nano sunscreens dominate
The report details eight reasons why consumers should be wary of nanomaterials in sunscreens and stressed that a significant number of sunscreens available on the market contain the technology.
A large number of sunscreen products use nanosize particles of the physical UV filters, zinc and titanium. This allows them to spread more easily, giving better coverage without leaving the white film traditionally associated with high SPF products.
In addition, according to some suppliers, nano-titanium dioxide and -zinc oxide are more effective at blocking UV rays than their larger counterparts.