More major sunscreen brands misled by non-nano claims, showing regulatory failure

MEDIA RELEASE. Wednesday, July 25, 2012
 

Friends of Earth has launched ACCC complaints accusing two Australian companies – Antaria Limited and Ross Cosmetics of misleading and deceptive conduct for marketing nano sunscreen ingredients as ‘non-nano’ and ‘nanoparticle-free’. Some of Australia’s biggest sunscreen brands are affected, including products such as Cancer Council ‘Classic’, Invisible Zinc ‘Junior’ and ‘Body’ sunscreens, Coles ‘Sports’ and Woolworths ‘Clear Zinc’. The complaint against Antaria is being supported by range of groups including the Public Health Association, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One company Mukti has recalled its affected product in response to the revelations.
 
Dr Gregory Crocetti from Friends of the Earth’s Nanotechnology Project says “Consumers are understandably concerned about the potential health risks of untested nano-ingredients in sunscreens. This is why many companies have chosen to market their sunscreens as nano-free. This scandal creates a crisis in consumer confidence, with even Australia’s most trusted brand - the Cancer Council - not knowing what is in their products.”
 
Mary Bluett, President of the Australian Education Union (Victorian Branch) says "There is growing evidence and there are growing concerns that nano-ingredients used in sunscreens present new health and safety challenges. Based on these concerns, AEU recommended that schools and workplaces use only nano-free sunscreens. It is deeply disturbing that companies have misrepresented the contents of their products in this way."
 
Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Health Association of Australia says "There is increasing evidence that nanotechnology potentially poses significant health, safety and environmental hazards. The Federal Government urgently needs to develop a regulatory framework to address health and safety concerns and provide informed choice."
 
Research by the National Measurement Institute (NMI) released earlier this year showed that a number of Australian sunscreen products that used ingredients supplied by Antaria and Ross contained nanomaterials. Importantly, the independent tests by NMI were much more rigorous than the laser light scattering measuring techniques used by the companies — which do not differentiate between bulk particles and agglomerates and aggregates (clumps) of nanoparticles (described as nanomaterials under both Australian and international definitions). Closer investigation of product information and patents by Friends of the Earth has now substantiated these results.*
 
“Alarmingly little research has been conducted into the health risks associated with nano-ingredients in sunscreen. However there are growing health concerns among scientists and skin specialists, including fears that nano-ingredients in sunscreens could lead to cancer,” Dr Crocetti says.
 
“Dermatologists and toxicologists have made public warnings that people with damaged skin, young children, and people who use sunscreens very regularly are at greater risk of exposure to nanomaterials and should avoid using nano-sunscreens. It is deeply concerning that people trying to avoid nano-ingredients have been misled in this way.
 
“It is fantastic that Mukti has done the right thing to protect consumers by recalling its affected product.
 
“If this scandal causes greater public concern around the safety of sunscreens, it is due to the Federal Government’s failure to regulate the use of nano-ingredients in sunscreen. If the Government had made the testing and labelling of nano-ingredients compulsory for companies we would never be in this mess.
 
“Europe and New Zealand are moving towards the regulation of nano-ingredients in sunscreens and Australia should do the same,” Dr Crocetti concludes.
 
Media contacts
Dr. Gregory Crocetti, FoE Nanotechnology Project media spokesperson: 0403 733 628
Louise Sales, FoE Nanotechnology Project co-ordinator:                              0435 589 579
 
* Friends of the Earth commissioned an expert opinion from the National Measurement Institute (NMI) regarding Antaria’s ZinClear IM product, which concludes:
 
It is the opinion of the National Measurement Institute (NMI) that the “mesoporous zinc oxide powder” described in Patent US 2010/0310871 A1 is a “nanomaterial” according to International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) technical specifications and an “industrial nanomaterial” as defined in the Australian Government National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (“NICNAS”) document “Guidance on new chemical requirements for Notification of Industrial Nanomaterials.”
 
The product guide for the Zinc Oxide Neutral product used by Ross Cosmetics describes it agglomerates of nanoparticles.
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 

  •     Research from the National Measurement Institute has revealed 4 sunscreen brands listed as “nano-free” in Friends of the Earth’s Safe Sunscreen Guide actually contain nano-ingredients. The only product tested that turned out to be nano-free is Banana Boat (Sports). We now know many of the brands listed as non-nano contain nano-ingredients but to determine which are nano-free would require further costly testing.
  •     European regulation of sunscreens will come into effect in July 2013, requiring mandatory nano-specific risk assessments and labelling of nano-ingredients. New Zealand will require labelling on nano-ingredients in sunscreens from 2015.
  •     A survey by The Australia Institute last year found that 92% of Australians believe sunscreen manufacturers should be required to conduct safety testing on nano-ingredients before using them in products and 85% want nano-ingredients in sunscreen to be labelled.
  •     Friends of the Earth refutes Ross Cosmetics'  claims that the Zinc Oxide Neutral ingredient it uses does not contain nanoparticles under International definitions. The product is comprised of agglomerates - or clumps - of nanoparticles.


 

Background

Exposing the Great Sunscreen Cover-up

Friends of Earth has launched ACCC complaints accusing two Australian companies – Antaria Limited (link to ACCC complaint) and Ross Cosmetics (link to ACCC complaint) of misleading and deceptive conduct for marketing nano sunscreen ingredients as ‘non-nano’ and ‘nanoparticle-free’. Some of Australia’s biggest sunscreen brands  are affected, including products such as Cancer Council Classic, Invisible Zinc Junior and Body sunscreens, Coles Sports and Woolworths Clear Zinc. The complaint against Antaria is being supported by range of groups including the Public Health Association, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One company Mukti has recalled its affected product in response to the revelations.

The scandal creates a crisis in consumer confidence, with the responsibility falling firmly in the lap of the Government. If our sunscreen regulator – the Therapeutic Goods Administration had properly regulated and labelled nano-ingredients in sunscreen we would never be in this mess.

Take Action: Email the Parliamentary Secretary for Health Catherine King and demand the proper regulation and labelling of nano-ingredients in sunscreen.

Slippery product information

There are growing concerns around the health risks of using nano-ingredients in sunscreen. Alarmingly little research has been conducted into the potential health risks. However, from the research that has been performed, we know that some nano-ingredients produce dangerous free radicals that if absorbed into skin, could damage DNA. The  head of CSIRO’s Nanosafety division has warned that in a worst-case scenario, nano-ingredients in sunscreens could increase the risk of skin cancer.

Despite growing concern about nano-ingredients in sunscreen, they aren’t labelled. To support informed choice, Friends of the Earth has produced the Safe Sunscreen Guide every year for the last few years, listing the nano-content of sunscreen products based on surveys of sunscreen manufacturers. Unfortunately, it now appears that some of Australia's leading sunscreen brands had incorrect information about the nano-content of the products they sell.

Sloppy claims

Antaria Limited sells active ingredients for sunscreens, while Ross Cosmetics manufactures sunscreens that it sells to retail sunscreen brands.

Both companies marketed their products to sunscreen brands as 'nano-free' or 'non-nano' on the basis of definitions created by each company – not those that have been developed internationally through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the European Union, or Australia's chemicals regulator NICNAS.

At least 13 sunscreen brands were misled by these companies. This means that tens of thousands of Australians have been buying nano-sunscreens for years, while believing otherwise.

A Slap in the face for the Government

This scandal would never have happened if Australia regulated the use of nano-ingredients in sunscreens and ensured accurate labelling. Europe will require the safety testing and labelling of nano-ingredients in sunscreens from 2013. However, Australia's regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, continues to reject calls for labelling.

Take Action: Email the Parliamentary Secretary for Health Catherine King and demand the proper regulation and labelling of nano-ingredients in sunscreen.

Read out factsheet on nano-ingredients in sunscreen
Read our report on the health concerns around nano-ingredients in sunscreen

MEDIA STATEMENT

Major sunscreen brands misled by non-nano claims, raising health concerns

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ABC TV’s7.30 program tonight will reveal Friends of the Earth’s findings of false non-nano claims made by many Australian sunscreen companies. Some of Australia’s biggest sunscreen brands are affected – including sunscreen products such as Cancer Council Classic, Invisible Zinc Junior and Body sunscreens and Woolworths Clear Zinc. One company Mukti has recalled its affected product in response to the revelations.
 
The products all contain ZinClear IM, manufactured byAustralian sunscreen ingredient manufacturer Antaria. Friends of the Earth has launched an ACCC complaint accusing the company of misleading and deceptive conduct for marketing this ingredient as “non nano”, despite it being a nanomaterial. A range of other organisations have backed the complaint, including the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Education Union and the Community and Public Services Union.
 
Dr Gregory Crocetti from Friends of the Earth’s Nanotechnology Project says Consumers are understandably concerned about the potential health risks of untested nano-ingredients in sunscreens. This is why many companies have chosen to market their sunscreens as nano-free. This scandal creates a crisis in consumer confidence – with even Australia’s most trusted brands such as the Cancer Council not knowing what is in their products.”
 
Research by the National Measurement Institute (NMI) released earlier this year showed that a number of Australian sunscreen products that used ZinClear IM contained nanomaterials. Importantly, the independent tests by NMI were much more rigorous than the laser light scattering measuring techniques used by companies including Antaria—which do not differentiate between bulk particles and clumps of nanoparticles (acknowledged as nanomaterials under both Australian and international definitions). Closer investigation of product information and patents by NMI for Friends of the Earth has now substantiated these results.*
 
“Alarmingly little research has been conducted into the health risks associated with nano-ingredients in sunscreen. However there are growing health concerns among scientists and skin specialists, including fears that nano-ingredients in sunscreens could lead to cancer,” Dr Crocetti says.
 
“Dermatologists and toxicologists have made public warnings that people with damaged skin, young children, and people who use sunscreens very regularly are at greater risk of exposure to nanomaterials and should avoid using nano-sunscreens. It is deeply concerning that people trying to avoid nano-ingredients have been misled in this way.
 
“It is fantastic that Mukti has taken proactive action to protect consumers by recalling its affected product.

“If this scandal causes greater public concern around the safety of sunscreens, it is due to the Federal Government’s failure to regulate the use of nano-ingredients in sunscreen. If the Government had made the testing and labelling of nano-ingredients compulsory for companies we would never be in this mess.
 
“Europe and New Zealand are moving towards the regulation of nano-ingredients in sunscreens and Australia should do the same,” Dr Crocetti concludes.
 
* Friends of the Earth commissioned an expert opinion from the National Measurement Institute (NMI), which concludes:
 
It is the opinion of the National Measurement Institute (NMI) that the “mesoporous zinc oxide powder” described in Patent US 2010/0310871 A1 is a “nanomaterial” according to International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) technical specifications and an “industrial nanomaterial” as defined in the Australian Government National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (“NICNAS”) document “Guidance on new chemical requirements for Notification of Industrial Nanomaterials.”
 
** Perth-based manufacturer Antaria Limited has repeatedly made claims that ZinClear-IM is not a nanomaterial—including words such as “not a nano-material” and “micron sized (non-nano)”–to its customers and the Australian stockmarket.
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. Research from the National Measurement Institute has revealed 4 sunscreen brands listed as “nano-free” in Friends of the Earth’s Safe Sunscreen Guide actually contain nano-ingredients. The only product tested that turned out to be nano-free is Banana Boat (Sports). We now know many of the brands listed as non-nano contain nano-ingredients but to determine which are nano-free would require further costly testing.
  2. European regulation of sunscreens will come into effect in July 2013, requiring mandatory nano-specific risk assessments and labelling of nano-ingredients. New Zealand will require labelling on nano-ingredients in sunscreens from 2015.
  3. The Australian chemicals regulator National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has indicated it intends to start implementing nano-specific regulation of active ingredients in cosmetic (secondary) sunscreens, such as moisturisers or lip balms with an SPF rating. This will create the situation where secondary sunscreens are regulated by NICNAS, while the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) continues to do nothing to ensure the safety of primary sunscreens, which it is responsible for overseeing.
  4. A survey by The Australia Institute last year found that 92% of Australians believe sunscreen manufacturers should be required to conduct safety testing on nano-ingredients before using them in products and 85% want nano-ingredients in sunscreen to be labelled.
Media contacts
Dr. Gregory Crocetti, FoE media spokesperson:                0403 733 628
Louise Sales, FoE Nanotechnology Project Co-ordinator: 0435 589 579