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Sunscreen: what about nanoparticles?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kate at Grist did a great write-up on EWG's sunscreen investigation -- if you haven't seen it yet, you should check it out.

Some concerns have been raised over our decision to recommend products that may contain nanoparticles. We certainly didn't start off on this project thinking that a product with nanoparticles in it would be among our top recommendations. No one has looked at nano tech in cosmetics more expansively than EWG has to date, or pressed FDA harder or more consistently to do something about. We’ve made clear our view that the FDA's lack of regulation on nano is unacceptable, including for sunscreens. We haven’t changed our view.

But here's the deal, as we see it: nano particles in eye shadow, blush, body glitter and other purely cosmetic products is beyond dumb. Suncreens? Different stakes. When moms and dads are asking what product they should put on their kids to protect them from the sun today, they need an answer, not campaign rhetoric. Our review of the science led us to the top choices you see on our site.

Yes, as FOE reminds us, Consumer Reports testing of eight products showed that you can get sun protection without nano. We agree, but we took our study two steps farther. We looked at which sunscreens break down in the sun, and which products contain hazardous ingredients that absorb through the skin and into the body to pose other risks. Our answers changed.

The science leads you to a different place than the knee-jerk anti-nano FOE response when it comes to sunscreen. This isn't eye shadow or mascara we're talking about - this is a product meant to help protect us from exposure to a known human carcinogen, UV radiation, responsible for a huge fraction of the more than one million cases of skin cancer diagnosed in this country every year.

If you go zinc- and titanium-free when it comes to sunscreen, chances are, you'll be left with more UV exposure and more hazardous ingredients. Is that what we want in our sunscreens? Are you willing to take those risks? We're not.

You can read all of the science behind our investigation in the report, or take a look at how some best-selling sunscreens rate in the database.

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