sunscreen creative commons

More Evidence UV Filters in Sunscreens Affect Marine Life Interview with:
sunscreen creative commonsAdela J. Li, PhD

Research Affiliate
Wadsworth Center, Rm. D597
New York State Dept. of Health
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY, 12201-0509
On the behalf of Dr. Kelvin Leung What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Most people love the beach. In order to block the sun’s damaging UV radiation, people generally slather on a thick layer of sunscreen against sunburn and skin cancer. Sunscreen is suggested to be re-applied every few hours regarding its effectiveness as well as being washed off into the water. These UV filters have been detected in the environment but most studies concluded that individual sunscreen chemicals pose no/low risk to animals or human. However, UV filters constitute a heterogeneous group of chemicals in sunscreens. We are wondering if combination of UV filters would induce higher toxicity than individual compounds, and whether these chemical interactions would develop over time, becoming increasingly dangerous to the living systems.

Our study found seven of the nine UV filters in Shenzhen waters, China — a rapidly urbanized city with over 20 popular recreational beaches, surprisingly, a reservoir and tap water. After exposing artemia to three dominant UV filters and then feeding these artemia to zebrafish adults, concentrations in both were up to 4 times higher when exposed to the mixtures than when exposed to only a single UV filter. A short-term of 25-day dietary exposure to the zebrafish adults did not appear to significantly influence early life stage development of the second generation; however, relatively long exposure over 47 days had significant adverse effects on embryo development. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Humans are benefiting from the wearing of sunscreen to protect against sunburn and skin cancer. At the same time, we should consider how those artificial UV filters affect living animals and even human health. UV filters are referred as endocrine disrupting chemicals. Our study showed that UV filters can be transferred through food chain (artemia to zebrafish), and consequently affect early development of zebrafish embryo. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our study clearly shows that UV filters are adversely affecting early life-stage zebrafish. Comprehensive evaluation of the complex effects UV filters—and their mixtures—are having on aquatic environments as well as human health should be undertaken. With knowledge, appropriate actions can be taken to curtail their potentially damaging effects. Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: We all live in a single earth. It is still a challenge to balance human requirements and sustainable development of the earth. Sunscreen chemicals, being endocrine disruptors, should be paid more attention at their wide applications, especially some toxic ones. 

Joint Effects of Multiple UV Filters on Zebrafish Embryo Development
Adela Jing Li, Japhet Cheuk-Fung Law, Chi-Hang Chow, Yanran Huang, Kaibin Li, and Kelvin Sze-Yin Leung
Environ. Sci. Technol., Articles ASAP (As Soon As Publishable)
Publication Date (Web):August 1, 2018 (Article)

DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b02418




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Aug 4, 2018 @ 12:00 pm




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1 Comment
  • Marc
    Posted at 01:09h, 07 August

    Sunscreens do not prevent sunburn!
    One of the worst changes to healthful sun habits is the application of sunscreens, especially for light-skinned people. The latest research shows that sunscreens cause sunburns. It has been known since 2014 that sunscreen use associates directly with increased sunburn. And no matter how you dance around it, the results are the same. (Kasey L. Morris, PhD; Frank M. Perna, EdD, PhD. Decision Tree Model vs Traditional Measures to Identify Patterns of Sun-Protective Behaviors and Sun Sensitivity Associated With Sunburn. JAMA Dermatol. Published online June 27, 2018). According to Kasey Morris, who led the study, “the most surprising and counterintuitive finding was that regular sunscreen use, in the absence of other protective behaviors, was associated with the highest likelihood of sunburn.”
    Most sunscreen is a chemical soup that leads to sunburns. And since we agree that sunburns may lead to skin cancer, why are we using sunscreens? The Morris study also showed that among sun-sensitive (light-skinned) individuals, those who used only sunscreen had the highest sunburn likelihood (62.4%). The group with lowest likelihood of sunburn did not use sunscreen but engaged in the other protective behaviors (24.3% sunburned). In addition, among 12,566 non–sun-sensitive individuals, those engaged in all protective behaviors had the lowest sunburn (6.6%). But in that group, the highest likelihood of sunburn was among those who used only sunscreen (26.2%).
    When sunscreen use is associated with a tripling or quadrupling of sunburn risk, we should throw this chemical soup in the trash heap and use conventional methods such as hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and shade for protection. Remember also that the state of Hawaii has outlawed many sunscreens because they are destroying the coral reefs. Sunscreen is one of the biggest mistakes this society has ever made. For more information: or read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s new book Embrace the Sun, available at Amazon.