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A recent [Link Removed] in The Telegraph, a local British newspaper, discusses the link between nanoparticle sunscreen and Alzheimer's Disease. Scientists are speculating that nanoparticles, tiny particles found in sunscreens and many skin care products, may be linked to diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

What Are Nanoparticles?  

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website, the U.S. EPA, ASTM and European SCCP consider nanoparticles to be materials with at least one dimension between 1-100nm (U.S. EPA 2005, ASTM 2006, SCCP 2008). The U.S. FDA, the agency charged with regulating sunscreens, has not adopted an official definition for nanoparticles.

Are nanoparticles safe? In a previous post, I discussed the safety of nanoparticles in sunscreens. Further to the FDA statement quoted in this post, the EWG, a non-profit organization that uses the power of public information to protect public health and the environment, after reviewing all scientific publications and government safety assessments on the penetration of zinc and titanium nanoparticles through skin, maintain:

The current weight of evidence suggests that nanoparticles do not penetrate through the thickness of the outer stratum corneum and epidermis to the living tissue below.  

EWG and Nanoparticles  

The EWG's study shows that consumers who use sunscreens without  zinc and titanium are likely exposed to more UV radiation and greater numbers of hazardous ingredients than consumers relying on zinc and titanium products for sun protection. They found that consumers using sunscreens without zinc and titanium would be exposed to an average of 20% more UVA radiation — with increased risks for UVA-induced skin damage, premature aging, wrinkling, and UV-induced immune system damage — than consumers using zinc- and titanium-based products. Sunscreens without zinc or titanium contain an average of 4 times as many high hazard ingredients known or strongly suspected to cause cancer or birth defects, to disrupt human reproduction or damage the growing brain of a child. They also contain more toxins on average in every major category of health harm considered: cancer (10% more), birth defects and reproductive harm (40% more), neurotoxins (20% more), endocrine system disruptors (70% more), and chemicals that can damage the immune system (70% more) (EWG 2007).

In particular, two commonly used sunscreen ingredients - octinoxate and oxybenzone - absorb into healthy skin — in large amounts according to some studies. These 2 sunscreens can cause allergic reactions, can lead to hormone-driven uterine damage, and can act like estrogen in the body, raising potential concerns for breast cancer.

EWG's telling statement:
_"If this were nano-containing eye shadow, blush, or body glitter our position would be different — if it's not protecting your health, don't use it. But sunscreen is meant to protect us from exposure to a known human carcinogen, UV radiation, responsible for some of the more than one million cases of skin cancer diagnosed in this country every year."_  

The study described in the article above is being funded by the European Union and is designed to explore the possible links between nano particles and brain disease. However, The Alzheimer's Research Trust cautioned people about suddenly stopping using sunscreen.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed].
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