The study will provide data and propose alternatives that will enable the development of environmentally friendly sunscreens.
The GAIKER technology centre, a member of the Basque Research & Technology Alliance (BRTA), is studying the potential toxicity of sun creams for marine ecosystem organisms. This research, which is being carried out in collaboration with ADP Cosmetics – a company that works in the development of innovative mineral sunscreens -, aims to develop formulas that are harmless to the environment.
With the arrival of summer and the good weather, sun creams become an essential ally to protect our skin from sunburn and other harmful effects that can be caused by solar radiation on our bodies. However, we are not aware of the effects that the components of these creams can have on the environment.
When we bathe in the sea, lake or river after applying sunscreen, a significant amount of the product is transferred from our skin to the water. An estimated 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen end up in the ocean each year, releasing a significant amount of chemical compounds that can alter the marine ecosystem.
Several studies have demonstrated the damage that some components of sun creams, such as ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate (EHMC), oxybenzone or octocrylene can cause to the organisms (animals, algae, etc.) that inhabit the affected ecosystems: mortality, inhibition of growth, damage to the immune and reproductive system, bleaching of corals, etc.
Given the concern and awareness that these compounds, classified as emerging pollutants, are causing, some companies are committed to producing and marketing sunscreens free of environmentally harmful compounds.
It is in this context that this research, in which GAIKER is participating, has arisen, with the aim of providing data and proposing alternatives that allow the development of sunscreens with environmentally friendly compounds.
This study focuses on the effects of the chemical filter ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate, one of the most common active ingredients in sunscreens used above all for protection against UV-B rays, and mineral filters based on micro and nanoparticles of metal such as titanium dioxide and oxides of zinc, iron and silicon.
In the first phase of the research, GAIKER will carry out acute toxicity tests on chemical and mineral filters, using bacteria (Aliivibrio fischeri), microalgae (Phaeodactylum tricornutum) and marine invertebrates (Artemia salina), the base of the food chain (trophic) of marine ecosystems. The tests to be carried out are based on methodologies validated and standardised by international bodies such as the OECD and ISO.
In the second phase, the Technology Centre will use fish cell lines to study the mechanisms of toxicity of these compounds at the cellular level. These in vitro studies will make it possible to decipher the toxicity mechanisms that can trigger a cascade of adverse events with possible effects on fish reproduction, malformation of the offspring or cancer. GAIKER is committed to research in alternative “in vitro” models, minimising and avoiding animal experimentation, in line with the principle of the 3Rs (Replace, Reduce and Refine).