Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Oxybenzone (Just When I Thought.....Part 3)

Still with me? Part 3 of 3 today on the issues raised by the EWG's sunscreen guide. I swear I'll give you a break from posts about sunscreen after this (for real this time). Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3) is a UVA/UVB absorber and photo stabilizer used in sunscreens.

Claim: Oxybenzone in sunscreen acts as a hormone disruptor.

The guide itself does not provide any sources for this claim.
I did dig around the EWG's website and found a chart on sunscreens with listed references for their claims about oxybenzone:
Janjua 2004, Janjua 2008, Sarveiya 2004, Gonzalez 2006, Rodriguez 2006, Krause 2012
(They were listed name and year only, with no links to the actual studies, but I have found them and included the links if you want to read for yourself. I'll refrain from comment on why they've made it so hard to get the information.)

After reading the studies and a variety of opinions, here are some of my takeaways:
  • Oxybenzone was found in a high percentage of the urine samples in 2 studies. However, this alone only shows that the body is metabolizing a substance, not accumulating it, or attributing a function to it.
  • There have been studies showing hormone changes in zebrafish embryos and rats, but these studies involved radically high doses. In the case of the rats it was given in their food. This can hardly be equated to a topical application. 
  • Again, the oxybenzone was fed/applied in isolation, not in a skin care product or formula. Worth noting, the 2001 study is not referenced on the website, although the findings are implied.
There just isn't any evidence to back up the claims of endocrine disruption in humans. I can't find any studies referencing actual symptoms in humans after exposure to oxybenzone. Contrary to some tricky language used in EWG's guide, oxybenzone is considered safe for use in the European Union. In fact, the EU allows for a higher concentration (10%) than the U.S. (6%).

Personally, I think further testing on potential environmental impact would be a good idea, considering some of the animal studies. In my opinion, if the amounts used in personal care products are found to impact lower life forms and/or the water supply, then it will be time to reconsider the use of oxybenzone.