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Nano sunscreens and brain disease studied by scientists

Reviewed by Marta August 31, 2009 1 Comment
A note of caution as you squeeze out the last of your micronized mineral sunscreens before the fall. British scientists are beginning a study to determine whether there is a link between brain diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimers, and nano particles from sunscreen. Titanium dioxide is being especially targeted for scrutiny under the microscope.

The scientists, based at a university in Ireland, said that there is existing research to prove that sunscreen nano particles have entered the brains of small animals by either intravenous means, from topical application for example, or by entering the lungs having been breathed in. The evidence has shown that the particles can become lodged in specific parts of the brain where there are no clearance mechanisms.

In the meantime, environmental group, Friends of the Earth, recently released a report claiming that nano-based sunscreens do not increase sun protection and can also pose a number of potential health problems.
  • September 2, 2009

    by Zoe

    I've posted on this before, but I'll repeat myself:

    I'm sensitive to chemical sunscreens--they make my skin peel which at the very least must render them somewhat ineffective. So, I'm faced with two undesirable choice: slather on greasy mineral-based sunscreens or go without. Back in June or July, however I came across a nano-zinc cream with somethin like 16.5% of the product just zinc oxide. It went on clear, had almost no noticeable texture whatsoever, didn't sweat off or seem to impact my pores at all and it totally, totally worked. Then one day my face broke out into a very strange rash that lasted a full week. Even though I'd never put any of the stuff anywhere near my eyelids or under eye area, my eyes still swelled up like I'd been punched. I looked like I was recovering from a car wreck or a bar fight.

    I used to work for a biotech company that makes use of nanoparticles for diagnostic and testing purposes and I'm generally pretty pro-nano, but zinc is actually one of the "impurities" we test for in food and water. It is a heavy, and therefor toxic metal and while it is crucial for our health, especially neurological health, too much is definitely a bad thing, which is why the FDA and EPA routinely award grants to people with technology to detect zinc in waterways and soil. I don't know anything about titanium oxide in terms of whatever role it might play in the human body, but I'm pretty sure it has no nutritional benefit for us and may just be a plain old contaminant, something for the liver and kidneys to excrete. Zinc at least *is* a part of our normal chemistry and I believe that probably even in nano form it's not in and of itself hazardous. I think I had a reaction to a) the high quantity of zinc in this particular sunscreen (I think twice as high as the highest amount of sunblock I've ever seen in a product) and b) as nanoparticles, I suspect it was sinking into my dermis and I wasn't able to wash all of it off every night so it built up over time. I'm also just a sensitive person--chai tea makes me flush sometimes. I've avoided all zinc sunscreens since this product, but I'll probably switch back from titanium oxide next time I run out just because I don't know enough about the later.

    One final concern of mine: zinc is an environmental contaminant. It's also a heavy metal, which means it passes through our systems unchanged. So using nanozinc in products means that we're dumping this stuff directly into our environment. If nanozinc particles can penetrate my skin so effectively, you can only imagine how easily it's sucked into the skin of fishes and other marine animals. :( I think the chinese are right: it's time to whip out the umbrellas, ladies and gentlemen, and the big, visor hats and gloves.

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