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Is sunscreen a health risk? Chemicals penetrate our skin


Chemicals from sunscreen get into our bodies

Sunscreen is the most popular way to protect yourself from sunburn and consequently skin cancer. Lately, however, there have been concerns that there are chemicals in some sunscreens that affect our bodies. A current study now clearly shows that certain ingredients from the sunscreen can get into our bloodstream through the skin. However, the consequences are currently unknown.

A recent study by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that the ingredients avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrilene and Mexoryl SX (ecamule), which are found in many sunscreen products, enter the bloodstream through the skin. The study results were recently presented in the specialist journal "JAMA".

Course of the study

For the study, 24 adult participants were divided into four groups. Each group received a different combination of commercially available creams, lotions and sprays for sun protection. The test subjects then had to rub 75 percent of the body's surface with sunscreen four times a day over a period of four days. The blood and urine values ​​of the participants were then checked during the test and in the following days.

Sunscreen chemicals in the blood

The FDA researchers found measurable concentrations of the chemicals avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrilene and Mexoryl SX in the blood of the participants in all groups. The concentration was so high that according to the safety regulations of the FDA, further investigations have to be arranged, since a current safe use is not clear. For example, plasma concentrations of the chemical avobenzone could be measured from the first day, which were above 0.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. This value persisted for three days after no cream was used at all. Similar concentrations were found for the chemicals oxybenzone and octocrylene. However, these only lasted over the period of use.

Impact currently uncertain

"The evidence of systemic absorption well above the FDA guideline does not necessarily mean that these ingredients are unsafe," the researchers write in an editorial on the study results. Nevertheless, the study raised many important questions about sunscreens that now need to be clarified. The advantages and risks as well as the manufacturing processes would now have to be reassessed by regulatory authorities, specialist organizations and clinical researchers. First and foremost, it is now important to determine whether the systemic absorption of sunscreens poses a risk to human health.

How intensively are sunscreens checked?

Many users of sunscreens believe that companies that manufacture and distribute sunscreens have conducted fundamental studies to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their products. Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to the FDA, the creams are not drugs. You don't have to go through standard drug safety tests, and despite decades of use, there is no data on systemic concentrations in the blood. In addition, there are still no adequately designed studies to determine the optimal sunscreen dose required to achieve a balance between risk and benefit in preventing skin cancer.

Sunscreen manufacturers want to maintain the status quo

The FDA reports delays in clarifying this issue. The American authorities claim that they have tried several times without success to persuade the sunscreen industry to conduct more detailed studies. However, it provided no or insufficient data. For this reason, the FDA is now carrying out the necessary examinations itself. The pressure on manufacturers is also increasing because the FDA has already threatened to withdraw the sunscreen products with questionable content from the market if the manufacturers do not agree to participate in the clarification by November 2019. (vb)

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