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November 5, 2008

Consumers Union Petitions FDA to Require Safety Assessment on the Use of Nanoparticles

Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 30, 2008, Consumers Union petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require a full safety assessment on the use of engineered nanoparticles, particularly in cosmetics, sunscreens, and sunblocks, and “to investigate possible enforcement action to ensure accurate labeling as to the presence or absence of nanoparticles.” Consumers Union cites new findings in the December 2008 issue of Consumer Reports, and states that the findings “confirm that use of certain nanoparticles is widespread in mineral-based sunscreens, and that company representatives are making erroneous assertions about these particles in their products.” Consumers Union purchased sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, focusing on products that, according to company representatives, do not contain nanoparticles. According to the Consumer Reports article, Consumers Union found that four of the five companies’ statements about their products, asserting that they did not contain nanoparticles, were incorrect.

The petition states:

Given the apparent widespread use of these nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in sunscreens in the US, as determined by our tests, we urge the FDA to do the same [as the European Union]:  to require safety assessment data on nanoparticles used in sunscreens.  We also urge the FDA to require manufacturers to disclose the presence of nanoparticles on the label of any cosmetic or over-the-counter drug product that contain such particles, and to immediately investigate misstatements by manufacturers to Consumer Reports about absence of these nanoparticles in sunscreen products.  Furthermore, we specifically urge the FDA to investigate whether the failure to disclose the presence of nanoparticles renders these sunscreen products misbranded, within the meaning of Section 201(n) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 321(n), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 332(b).