Octocrylene, oxybenzone, phenoxyethanol … These substances with barbaric names are found in sunscreens which are widely spread on skin in summer to avoid sunburn. However, if they protect against cancer risks, these UV filters can become harmful to the environment, corals in particular, and to children’s skin, denounce two new studies.
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One, published on Thursday July 2 by two environmental defense associations, Wecf France and Agir pour l’Environnement, reveals that ” in the 71 sunscreen products for children [analysés], 29 problematic substances of more or less concern were identified. (…) 5 substances are endocrine disruptors of very high concern. “The two collectives request a referral from the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Security (ANSES)” to assess the benefit / risk balance of sunscreen products for children ».
The other, published in mid-June, was carried out by a team of researchers from the Microbial Biodiversity and Biotechnology Laboratory and the Banyuls-sur-Mer Oceanological Observatory. It points to the effects on corals of three UV filters, octocrylene, oxybenzone and ethylhexyl salicylate, supplementing a December 2018 report on the same subject.
5,000 tonnes of sunscreen spilled into the sea each year
These studies are not the first of their kind, in France and abroad. For several years, many of them have denounced the toxicity of the chemicals present in sunscreens, foundations or detergent, which are then found in the blood or in the ocean.
Concerned by the harmfulness of these ingredients – about 5,000 tonnes of sunscreen would spill into the sea each year in tropical areas – Palau, an archipelago of 500 islands in Micronesia, in the Pacific, have already prohibited octocrylene in sunscreens since January 2020. From 2021, it will also be banned on the beaches of the State of Hawaii, in the United States, like oxybenzone.
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France, the fourth country with the most coral reefs and the second largest maritime area in the world, has yet to act. However, in August 2018, the Secretary of State for ecological and united transition Brune Poirson had entrusted ANSES with an “Oceans Mission” aimed at ” identify the substances of most concern “For corals and” propose the appropriate regulatory framework measures “, Which could go as far as the ban. The audit conclusions were due to be released in the first quarter of 2019, but no reports have emerged.