While chemical UV filters are regularly touted as safe and effective, the FDA has shown in two recent studies that chemical filters have been found to circulate in the plasma: for longer periods of time and at higher concentrations without enough data to provide an accurate safety assessment. The FDA has requested the manufactures of these chemical UV filters to provide more data.
Dermal exposure is the most relevant entry route of chemicals related to sunscreen use, however considering a common human behavior related to sunscreen application, e.g. eating and drinking with sunscreen applied on hands and lips, gastrointestinal or pulmonary exposure should also be considered data. Environmental exposure should be also considered. The last is particularly true for organic filters, which, due to their high lipophilicity could bioaccumulate in aquatic organism and reach humans through the food chain. Thus, they also are emergent as an environmental pollutant. Chemical UV filters are easily absorbed by the skin and reach the systemic circulation, and accumulate in various tissues, as adipose tissue, liver and the brain.
The endocrine disruptive and developmental toxicity of many chemical UV filters in experimental models is well established, these filters seem to be associated with altered estrogen, androgen and progesterone activity, reproductive and developmental toxicity and impaired functioning of the thyroid, liver or kidneys.
Physical filters, specifically larger particle non-nano zinc oxide (ZnO) and non-nano titanium dioxide (TiO2), which scatter and reflect UV rays penetrate the human skin in a minimal degree.
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Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients, JAMA, May 6, 2019
Shedding More Light on Sunscreen Absorption, US Food and Drug Administration, January, 21, 2020
Science Direct, Neurotoxic effect of active ingredients in sunscreen products, a contemporary review, Toxicology Reports, Volume 4, 2017, Pages 245-259https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214750017300288