Sunscreen May Harm Baby Fish

Scientists in Hong Kong have found that combinations of UV-protective compounds in sunscreen can negatively impact the development of fish embryos.

AsianScientist (Aug. 21, 2018) – In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, scientists in Hong Kong have discovered that sunscreen can cause abnormalities in the offspring of marine creatures.

A painful sunburn can ruin a vacation, and too much sun can also lead to more serious problems like premature skin aging and melanoma. Therefore, manufacturers have added ultraviolet (UV) filters to many personal care products, including sunscreens, moisturizers and makeup.

Scientists have detected these substances in the environment, but most studies have concluded that individual sunscreen chemicals are not present at high-enough levels to harm people or animals.

However, in this study, a research group led by Associate Professor Kelvin Leung Sze-Yin of Hong Kong Baptist University has found that combinations of UV-protective compounds in sunscreen have a negative impact on the development of marine organisms.

Leung and his team began by analyzing the levels of nine common UV filters in surface waters of Shenzhen, China—a rapidly growing city with more than 20 popular recreational beaches. The researchers found seven of the nine chemicals in Shenzhen waters, including public beaches, a harbor, a reservoir and tap water.

Next, the researchers fed zebrafish, a common model organism, with brine shrimp that had been exposed to three of the most prevalent chemicals, alone or in mixtures. Although the adult fish displayed no visible problems from consuming these UV-filtering compounds, their offspring showed developmental abnormalities. These outcomes were mostly observed for longer-term exposures (47 days) and elevated levels of the chemicals.

Overall, the effects of different UV filters and mixtures of these substances varied in often-unpredictable ways, suggesting that further studies are needed to determine how sunscreen impacts living systems.

The article can be found at: Li et al. (2018) Joint Effects of Multiple UV Filters on Zebrafish Embryo Development.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Shutterstock.
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