Skip to the content

Should We Use Products Containing Chemical UV Absorbing Sunscreen Actives on Children?

Short Communication A S c i T e c h n o l J o u r n a l

DiNardo and Downs, Clin Dermatol Res J 2019, 4:1

DOI: 10.4172/2576-1439.1000130 Clinical Dermatology

Research Journal

All articles published in Clinical Dermatology Research Journal are the property of SciTechnol, and is protected by copyright

laws. Copyright © 2019, SciTechnol, All Rights Reserved. International Publisher of Science,

Technology and Medicine

*Corresponding author: Joseph C DiNardo, 6920 Irish Creek Road, Vesuvius,

VA 24483, USA, Tel: 540-377-2932; E-mail:

Received: March 02, 2019 Accepted: March 11, 2019 Published: March 19,


Should We Use Products

Containing Chemical UV

Absorbing Sunscreen Actives on


Joseph C DiNardo1* and Craig A Downs2


The following short communication is not meant to definitively

answer a specific question, but rather to initiate a conversation into

simply understanding what chemicals we expose our children to

on a daily basis and what impact it can have on their biological

development. Sunscreen safety has recently been under

question with numerous papers being published linking them

to everything from general toxicity to endocrine disruption in a

variety of species including humans. Additionally, a 2018 report

from the American Cancer Society demonstrated that after 40

years of sunscreen use (1975-2014) melanoma has increased

4 fold in men and 3 fold in women. Many have speculated

that the doses used in toxicology experiments are significant

exaggerations of “normal use conditions”, however, this paper

clearly demonstrates that the long-term exposure to sunscreens

in children is not an exaggeration but equivalent to what has

been reported in the literature.


Oxybenzone; Sunscreens; Endocrine disrupting chemicals; Low

sperm density


UV: Ultraviolet; EDCs: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals; NTP:

National Toxicology Program; NOAEL: No Observable Adverse

Effect Level; LOAEL: Lowest Observable Adverse Effect Level; PPM:

Parts Per Million; g: Gram; mg: Milligram; Kg: Kilogram.

Short Communication

Global concern has been expressed about the use of chemical

ultraviolet (UV) absorbers in children’s sunscreen products.

For example, the Swedish Research Council ruled sunscreens

with oxybenzone are unsuitable for use in children under the age of

two years because they lack the enzymes to breakdown the chemical

[1]. Furthermore, a study that consisted of 1,196 adults and children

concluded, octinoxate aggregate exposure levels for children aged 4

years or less, during the summer months, exceed the No Observable

Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) for reported thyroid endocrine

disrupting effects [2] and should be avoided.

Review of 169 sunscreen products labeled for use on babies/

children/family was conducted with 6 UV absorbers commonly

identified-avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, octisalate

and/or oxybenzone; all considered endocrine disrupting chemicals

(EDCs) and all with molecular weights below 500 allowing for easier

passage through human skin. Additionally, EDCs are “not species

specific” [3] and can behave in a synergistic manner producing toxic

effects, when used in combination, at levels below the known NOAEL


To establish a cogent argument that the exposure levels and risks

of these chemicals, when used as recommended, are of concern the

following summary of premises are offered:

1. All six chemical UV absorbers noted are considered to be EDCs

and the reactions they cause are not considered to be species specific.

2. They are used in combination or all together in sunscreen

products labeled for use on “babies, children and/or family” at a

common concentration (mode) of 32%.

3. They all have a molecular weight below 500, which allows them

to pass through human skin.

4. Concerns have been expressed about exposure to these

chemicals relating to potential systemic toxicity in children.

5. Endocrine disruptors can act synergistically together at levels

below their individual NOAEL.

Knowing these facts, along with the absorption potential of a

chemical we can calculate the exposure level, under normal conditions

of use, and compare the dose received with the dose known to

produce adverse reaction(s). For example, if we take a look at data

for the chemical oxybenzone that is commonly used at 6% and has

an absorption potential in humans of approximately 8% [5], we can

observe the following:

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) studied oxybenzone

at a variety of concentrations in a 13-week topically applied study

in mice [6]. No NOAEL was observed in the study, however, the

Lowest Observable Adverse Effect Level (LOAEL) tested was 22.75

mg/Kg or parts per million (ppm) which caused a significant decrease

in epididymal sperm density (an endocrine disruption affect). If we

take a 12.5 Kg 2 year old male child and apply 60 grams of a product

that contains 6% oxybenzone over a 4 hour period (1 ounce every

2 hours), which is the recommended amount of sunscreen the

American Academy of Dermatology and the FDA agree should be

used to minimize skin cancer, the child would be exposed to 288 ppm

of oxybenzone in just one day of outside play.

The amount of oxybenzone that has been shown to get through

“adult” skin is approximately 8% and, therefore, if we take 8% of the 288

ppm exposure the child would absorb a dose of 23.04 ppm of oxybenzone

or roughly the same dose that produced endocrine effects in mice.


60 grams (amount of product applied/day)* 0.06 (6% oxybenzone

in product)/12.5 Kg (average weight of 2 year child)=0.288 g/Kg or

288 mg/Kg or 288 ppm/exposure.

Citation: DiNardo JC, Downs CA (2019) Should We Use Products Containing Chemical UV Absorbing Sunscreen Actives on Children?. Clin Dermatol Res J


Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 1000130 • Page 2 of 2 •

doi: 10.4172/2576-1439.1000130

288 ppm/exposure* 0.08 (8% oxybenzone absorbed

topically)=23.04 ppm absorbed/day.

Another point that must be considered in order to compare the

two studies is the duration of the study. In the NTP study, mice were

applied for 13 weeks, which is approximately one-eighth of a lab

mouse’s life (average life span 2 years) and equivalent to 9.5 years

of an American male’s life (average life span 76 years). Therefore, in

order to achieve a similar dose as in the mouse study we would have

to apply 60 grams of product daily to the child for roughly 10 years.

In laboratory studies the amount of test agent applied to maintain the

dose over time is adjusted to accommodate for changes in weight as

the animal matures. This cannot be done in human studies without

applying excessive amounts of product. So, the amount applied daily

to the child must become a constant (60 grams per day), causing the

overall dose to decrease over time as the child grows (Table 1). Taking

this into account the total dose absorbed over a 10-year period would

be reduced to 13.56 ppm absorbed/day or 60% of the NTP LOAEL

applied to mice.

The question now becomes would one expect to observe, in real

life, the epididymal sperm density changes in humans that were

observed in the NTP mouse study using the information obtained for

the above example? Review of the literature indeed demonstrates such

an effect. Scinicariello et al. [7] reported that environmental exposure

to oxybenzone in adolescent boys (ages 12-19) was associated with

significantly lower total serum testosterone levels, which would

produce lower sperm density.

Since all 6 of the chemical UV absorbers used in these products

are classified as EDCs and can exert similar effects because they are

not species specific, we can recalculate the above equation replacing

the 6% oxybenzone level with the mode of 32% or total chemical UV

absorbers used in the baby/child/family sunscreen products. In doing

so, we can calculate that the same 2 year old child would receive a

daily dose of 1,536 ppm/exposure and using the 8% absorption data

the amount of material entering the child’s body would be 122.88

ppm/day of EDCs or nearly 5.4 times the topical dose that was

used in the NTP mouse study. Again, taking into account a 10 year

weighted dose (Table 1) 72.3 ppm of chemical UV absorber/EDCs

would be absorbed daily or roughly 3 times the total NTP dose the

mice received (assuming 100% absorption in mice) over the 13 week

treatment period.

Lastly, it should be noted that 155 sunscreen containing lip

balms/glosses were also reviewed that are directly (cartoon character

based) or indirectly (various flavors) marketed to children. The

mean, median and mode chemical UV absorbers (EDCs) used in

these products was 15% which in an average package size of 4.2

grams will add an additional 630 ppm to a child’s exposure level

per each unit consumed, since 100% of what is applied to the lips

is ingested.


In conclusion, there is a direct association of topically apply

chemical UV absorbers found in sunscreen products, especially those

containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, and endocrine disruptive

effects observed in children and young adults under “normal

conditions of use”. Based on the data presented, it would appear

that non nano-particle size mineral based sunscreens (zinc oxide

and titanium dioxide) maybe a safer choice when trying to protect

children from the damaging effects of UV rays, “in additional to”

practicing sun avoidance, using protective clothing/hats/sunglasses

and utilizing oversized umbrellas/cabanas when around pools or on

beach vacations.


1. Gonzalez H (2006) Studies of sunscreens: Percutaneous absorption of

benzophenone-3 and photostability, dissertation. Thesis-sahlgrenska

academy, Department of Clinical Sciences, Department of Dermatology and


2. Manova E, Von GN, Hungerbuehler K (2015) Aggregate consumer exposure

to UV filter ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate via personal care products. Environ

Int 74: 249-257.

3. World Health Organization: State of the science of endocrine disrupting

chemicals (2012) An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine

disruptors prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment

Programme (UNEP) and WHO.

4. Rehfeld A, Dissing S, Skakkebæk NE (2016) Chemical UV filters mimic the

effect of progesterone on Ca2+ signaling in human sperm cells. Endocrinology

157: 4297-4308.

5. Gonzalez H, Farbrot A, Larko O (2006) Percutaneous absorption of the

sunscreen benzophenone-3 after repeated whole-body applications, with and

without ultraviolet irradiation. Br J Dermatol 154: 337-340.

6. French JE (1992) NTP technical report on the toxicity studies of 2-Hydroxy-

4-methoxybenzophenone (CAS No. 131-57-7) Administered topically and in

dosed feed to F344/N rats and B6C3F1 Mice. Toxic Rep Ser 21: 1-52.

7. Scinicariello F, Buser MC (2016) Serum testosterone concentrations and

urinary bisphenol a, benzophenone-3, triclosan and paraben levels in male

and female children and adolescents: NHANES 2011-2012. Environ Health

Perspect 124: 1898-1904.

Age of male Weight (Kg) ppm from 6%


ppm from all


2 yrs 12.5 23.04 122.88

3 yrs 14.0 20.57 109.71

4 yrs 16.3 17.67 94.23

5 yrs 18.4 15.65 83.48

6 yrs 20.6 13.98 74.56

7 yrs 22.9 12.58 67.07

8 yrs 25.6 11.25 60.00

9 yrs 28.6 10.07 53.71

10 yrs 32.0 9.00 48.00

11 yrs 35.6 8.09 43.15

12 yrs 39.9 7.22 38.50

Mean dose over 10 years 13.56 72.30

Table 1: 10 year calculations based on age, weight and ppm absorbed of chemical

UV EDC(s).

Author Affiliations Top

1Research Scientist Emeritus, Vesuvius, VA, USA

2Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, Clifford, VA, USA

About the author

Dr. Howard Dryden

Dr. Howard Dryden

Dr. Dryden has unique knowledge combination of biology, chemistry and technology and is the inventor of the activated, bio-resistant filter media AFM®. Dr. Dryden is one of the world`s leading experts in sustainable water treatment.

comments powered by Disqus

Wherever you are and wherever you live, there is no safe haven from the toxic wave of chemical pollution

Dr. Howard Dryden, CSO

Goes Foundation

3/2 Boroughloch Square

Clean Water Wave

The Meadows