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Environmental connections to public health >>

FOE's nanotech no-no

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sometimes the little stuff makes a big difference.

That's the point Friends of the Earth make in their recent report on nanoparticles in sunscreen. Ian Illuminato, the report's author, points out that "The government doesn't currently have any standards for which nanoparticles can or can't be used in cosmetics and sunscreens. Nor is the government funneling much money towards relevant risk research."

True, true, true! We really appreciate FOE's continued emphasis on nanotech research and regulation. We especially think it's important for manufacturers to explicitly label products containing nanoparticles so that consumers can make informed decisions.

But when it comes to sunscreen, EWG respectfully disagrees. Our research demonstrates that sunscreens formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which are sometimes ground down into nanoparticles for cosmetic reasons, have the best broad-spectrum protection and the lowest known risk of sunscreens currently on the market in the US. The products on FOE's recommended list may not contain nanoparticles, but they're also much less effective. They degrade twice as fast in the sun and provide less protection to begin with, leaving you with a much higher risk for sunburns and skin cancer.

FOE is right to raise questions about nanotechnology. EWG would love to see the development of sunscreens even better than zinc and titanium without the use of nano. In the meantime, though, consumers need to know which products are most safe and effective overall -- not just which products might contain nanoparticles.

Looking for a detailed, product-by-product sunscreen analysis? Check out EWG's sunscreen database.

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