Most of us are quick to reach for our sunscreen before heading outdoors in the summer, but that might not be a great idea – especially for swimmers. New research reveals that sunscreen becomes toxic when exposed to chlorine, sometimes resulting in kidney and liver dysfunctions, as well as nervous system disorders.
The study, conducted by Lomonosov Moscow State University, was published in the journal Chemosphere. The researchers were reportedly stunned to discover that chlorine — a chemical commonly used in the US and UK to disinfect water by killing bacteria — breaks down suncream into other potentially-hazardous chemicals.
Specifically, the ingredient Avobenzone is what breaks down into hazardous components when mixed with chlorinated water. As Phys.org reports, Avobenzone was approved by the FDA in 1988 due to its ability to absorb ultraviolet light by converting the energy of the light into thermal energy. Every year, it is regularly applied by millions of people worldwide — a fact which makes this finding so concerning.
Dr. Albert Lebedev, the study’s author, said, “On the basis of the experiments one could make a conclusion that a generally safe compound transforms in the water and forms more dangerous products. In spite of the fact that there are no precise toxicological profiles for the most established products, it’s known that acetyl benzenes and phenols, especially chlorinated ones, are quite toxic.”
Scientists are now looking into a suitable alternative for avobenzone that won’t break down when exposed to chlorination or bromination of fresh and sea water. “Studying the products of transformation of any popular cosmetics is very important as very often they turn out to be much more toxic and dangerous than their predecessors,” said Lebedeve. “In principle, basing on such researches, one could obtain results, which could restrict or even put under a ban the usage of one or another product, and preserve health of millions of people.”