Now FoE are trying to terrorize kids and parents over nanoparticles
Sunscreen concern reaches into the school grounds
AROUND AUSTRALIA THIS WEEK shoes are being shined, pencils sharpened and lunches packed. At the school gate, parents will farewell little ones with oversized hats and backpacks as they tumble into the school year.
And as they prepare for a new batch of students, teachers will be receiving 50,000 leaflets from environmental group Friends of the Earth encouraging them, and their students, to use sunscreens that don’t include nanoparticles – an ingredient the Theraputic Goods Administration (TGA) has deemed to be acceptable in sunscreens.
The leaflet distribution is the result of a resolution passed by the Australian Education Union (AEU) last year. AEU Victorian president Mary Bluett released a statement at the time that said, “While the jury is still out on how safe nanoparticles are, we are advising schools to be cautious and consider using nano-free sunscreen, of which there are a number widely available on the market.”
Nanoparticles are defined as objects between 1 and 100 nanometres across that behave as a unit. It would take 10,000 of the largest nanoparticles, placed end to end, to span a single millimeter.
Although nanoparticles are made of the same material as larger specks, they can sometimes behave quite differently. Research is taking place for their application in everything from medicine delivery to solar power, but the first widespread use is in sunscreen as tiny particles of zinc or titanium oxides.
The TGA website notes, “Historically, when used in sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are visible, giving the skin a white colour. This effect can be reduced when these chemicals are used in nanoparticle form, where they cannot be seen on the skin but still retain the sun-screening properties of the coarser material.” Consequently, for more than 20 years some manufacturers have included nanoparticles in their sunscreens on aesthetic grounds.
For much of that time environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has questioned the safety of this use. With the support of the AEU their campaign is likely to achieve a whole new prominence, making parents aware of the potential harm of the particles: the FoE leaflet the AEU will distribute contains arguments against the safety of nanoparticles, and identifies brands that avoid them. (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)