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July 19, 2018

Health-EU Newsletter Includes Editorial on Safety of Nanomaterials in Sunscreens

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The July 19, 2018, issue of the European Commission’s (EC) Health-EU Newsletter includes an editorial entitled “The only concern to have about sunscreen is … did you remember to put it on?” written by Qasim Chaudhry, Chair of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) and Ulrike Bernauer, Chair of the SCCS Working Group on Nanomaterials in Cosmetic Products.  According to the editorial, nanomaterials as cosmetic ingredients serve various functions, including as ultraviolet (UV)-filters (such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), as pigments (e.g., carbon black), or as an antimicrobial agent.  SCCS published an opinion in 2013 stating that the use of nano-titanium dioxide up to a concentration of 25 percent as a UV-filter in dermally applied sunscreen products was safe to use on healthy, intact, or sunburned skin (SCCS/1516/13).  The editorial notes that when a nanomaterial surface is modified with other ingredients, however, it can lead to a change in the material characteristics and as a result numerous variants of a nanomaterial may be formed.  In the case of nano-titanium dioxide used in sunscreens, SCCS concluded that such variants resulting from surface modification can also be considered safe.  SCCS recently published another opinion (SCCS/1580/16) that assesses whether nano-titanium dioxide coated with other materials could be considered safe for the use as a UV-filter in dermally-applied cosmetic products.  SCCS concluded that the use of titanium dioxide nanomaterials coated with specified amounts of three other coating materials could also be considered safe for use in cosmetic products intended for application on healthy, intact, or sunburned skin.  The editorial states that this conclusion “is mainly based on dermal penetration studies that showed that these nanomaterials did not permeate the skin and enter the body.”  According to the editorial, SCCS keeps opinions “under constant review as new scientific evidence becomes available.”  SCCS “is currently revising, in fact, the Guidance on the Safety Assessment of Nanomaterials in cosmetics (SCCS/1484/12) to take account of the scientific progress in the field of nanotechnology and new available testing methods.”  The editorial concludes that consumers can “rest assured” that any nanomaterials in cosmetics in Europe have already gone through “the most stringent safety assessment in the world.”