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Nanomaterials, sunscreens and cosmetics: Small ingredients, big risks

Friends of the Earth's report “Nanomaterials, sunscreens and cosmetics: Small ingredients, big risks" details the extensive use of nanomaterials in 116 products, from sunscreens and anti-aging creams to shampoos and toothpastes, despite preliminary scientific evidence that many types of nanoparticles can be toxic. Personal care products that contain engineered nanoparticles are being sold despite a complete absence of safety assessment and regulation of nanomaterials. The report also surveys a growing body of scientific research showing that many types of nanoparticles pose risks to consumers, workers and the environment.

The report found that some of the biggest names in cosmetics, including L'Oréal, Revlon and Estée Lauder, as well as many lesser known brands, are rapidly introducing nanomaterials into their products and onto the faces and hands of millions of people, despite a growing body of evidence indicating nanomaterials can be toxic to humans.

The increasing use of nanoparticles in cosmetics is despite clear recommendations from the United Kingdom's Royal Society two years ago that nanomaterials should be subject to new safety testing prior to their inclusion in consumer products. However Australian regulators have failed to require safety testing of nanoscale ingredients prior to their inclusion in cosmetics, sunscreens and personal care products.

The use of potentially hazardous nanomaterials in personal care products is particularly alarming. These products are used daily, are designed to be applied directly to the skin, may be inhaled and are often ingested. The risks of exposure are significant.

Friends of the Earth is calling for a moratorium on the further commercial release of personal care products that contain engineered nanomaterials, and the withdrawal of such products currently on the market, until adequate, publicly available, peer-reviewed safety studies have been completed, and a comprehensive regulatory regime is established to manage the risks associated with nanotoxicity.