A study, conducted by researchers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), found sunscreen chemicals leach quickly into people’s blood, reaching levels high enough to license further testing on the substances’ safety.
While a relatively small study, involving only two dozen researchers, it is one of the first to examine levels of sunscreen chemicals in a person’s blood system when the product is used as directed. It is also one of the first studies to determine just how long the chemicals stay in the blood.
Scientists are still at a loss with health risks which are posed by these chemicals, does this mean we need to stop using sunscreen?
The findings which were published on May 6 in the journal Jama, show people should not avoid using sunblock, especially with the risks posed by sun exposure.
Dr Kanade Shinkai, a dermatologist at the University of Calfornia, who co-authored an editorial piece accompanying the study, says the sun can cause skin cancer and melanoma.
Surely there must have been some form of research on sunscreen in the past? While sunscreens are widely used products, there is very little research on the safety and effectiveness of the chemicals commonly found in the products.
During the study, 24 healthy adults volunteered to have sunscreen applied to their skin four times a day for a four-day period.
They were then divided into four groups, which each received a different form of sunscreen. Researchers then applied the recommended amount of sunscreen.
The volunteers stayed in the laboratory during the study and had 30 blood samples taken during the course of their stay.
The blood samples allowed researchers to examine the blood levels of four common sunscreen ingredients. They are avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.
Researchers wanted to establish whether the blood concentrations of these chemicals surpassed 0.5 nanograms per millilitre, which is the threshold set by the FDA in 2016. The agency says any medication which is absorbed into the blood at levels exceeding this threshold should undergo additional safety studies.
The results revealed that within just one day of sunscreen application, all four chemicals were found in people’s blood at levels exceeding the threshold. Furthermore, these chemicals may accumulate in the blood over time.
While further research will be conducted to establish if there are no ill side effects, people do not need to fret too much. Certain sunscreen ingredients do not absorb into a person’s blood. These include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both are ingredients in so-called mineral sunscreens.
Dr Shinkai says these products work by coating a person’s skin and reflect light, rather than by absorbing light in the way chemical sunscreens do.
With the side effects of chemical sunscreens still hanging in the balance and the beautiful South African weather offering Newcastillians hours of fun in the outdoors, there are other ways to protect ourselves from the harsh sun. This includes wearing sunglasses, hats and protective clothing.