US personal care industry representatives have welcomed the results of a review by the country’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which concluded there is insufficient data at present to support sunscreen ingredient bans.
The Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) said the report, titled ‘Review of Fate, Exposure, and Effects of Sunscreens in Aquatic Environments and Implications for Sunscreen Usage and Human Health’, “identified information gaps and research priorities” necessary to inform an environmental risk assessment (ERA).
The Academies recommended the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should conduct an ERA of ultraviolet (UV) filters, the active ingredient used in sunscreens.
The recommended EPA assessment, it said, should focus on environments that are more likely to be exposed and that may contain sensitive species.
These could include coral reefs in shallow environments near shorelines with heavy recreational use and limited flow of seawater, or reefs where wastewater and urban runoff enter the water.
Slow-moving freshwater systems with heavy swimming and recreational activity or wastewater were identified as another priority for assessment.
“An ecological risk assessment will help inform efforts to understand the environmental impacts of UV filters, and potentially clarify a path forward for managing sunscreens,” said Charles A Menzie, former Executive Director of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, principal at Exponent Inc, and Chair of the committee that wrote the report.
“At the same time, it is clear decision-makers need more information as they navigate protecting both the environment and human health.
“Federal agencies and industry should fund and pursue research to fill these information gaps.”
“The key conclusions confirm PCPC’s long-held position that there is currently insufficient relevant and reliable scientific data to conduct realistic ERAs and there is not enough scientific data to support sunscreen ingredient bans,” said the PCPC.
“Policymakers, regulators and legislators should not make any decisions that impact consumers’ access to FDA-approved sunscreen UV filters until the scientific community reaches an informed consensus.”
In the report, the Academies acknowledged that if consumers reduced their use of currently marketed sunscreens because of regulatory restrictions or perceived environmental risks, there could be significant potential adverse public health impacts and increased UV-induced skin cancers.
Recent years have witnessed local bans of specific sunscreens in regions where marine life is perceived to be under threat.
On 1 January 2020, Palau became the first country in the world to ban sun cream deemed harmful to corals and sea life.
Most notably, the state of Hawaii banned the commercial sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate on 1 January 2021 due to concern of environmental effects linked to the two ingredients and their contribution to increased coral bleaching; this ban is only applicable to sale within the state.