Skin cancer is a huge concern, but people who slather on copious amounts of sunscreen could be at risk for excessive zinc entering their bloodstream, according to a new Australian study. Geochemist Brian Gulson, of Sydney’s Macquarie University, has discovered that zinc oxide nanoparticles, contained in many translucent sunscreens, can be absorbed by the body and stay there indefinitely, writes the Australian.
Currently, it is unknown exactly what impact zinc nanoparticles have on the body’s cells or immune system, but long-term exposure to high zinc levels can cause copper deficiency, which is detrimental to the body.
Professor Gulson presented his research to the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Sydney yesterday. He said children and construction workers are at most risk of absorbing too much zinc because of their “higher than average” usage, reports the Australian.
The study consisted of applying specially formulated sunscreen with “traceable” zinc oxide isotopes to 20 people of various ages, skin types and races over five days with blood and urine samples taken from each. The results indicated that zinc isotopes were absorbed into the urine and blood of each participant, and remained there for some time.
Previously, it was assumed that substances rubbed onto the skin could not permeate upper layers, but Professor Gulson said his findings were “significant” and urged cosmetic companies to “slow down” on the number of consumer products that contained nanoparticles, said the Australian. Nearly 400 sunscreen products sold in Australia contain nanoparticles in amounts ranging from 4 per cent to 30 per cent, the Therapeutic Goods Administration says.
Kylie Chisholm, 35, spending yesterday at Perth’s City Beach with her 11-month-old son, said she would consider her choice of sunscreen for her child more seriously.
“You’ve got to weigh up the risk of skin cancer and how much impact these particles will really have,” she said, quoted the Australian, and continued, “This research would sway me into finding maybe a safer alternative if the one I was using wasn’t considered safe, but I would always be using sunscreen whenever we’re outside.”