An "extensive amount" of seven common UV filter chemicals was found in Hong Kong seawater as well as in fish, shrimps and mussels on aqua-farms, scientists from Hong Kong Baptist University told reporters. The chemicals tested on the zebrafish study included octocrylene (known as OC), benzophenone-3 (known as BP-3) and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (known as EHMC), which were found to be the most abundant types of chemical UV filters in Hong Kong waters.
"The effect of these contaminants passing along the food chain to humans and the long-term impact on human fertility cannot be neglected," said Dr. Kelvin Leung, who led the research.
Tests performed on zebrafish, which share a similar genetic structure with humans, showed the polluted water caused abnormalities and a higher mortality rate in the fish's embryos as the chemicals entered the food chain.
The university described the study as a world-first in identifying the harm caused by a combination of polluting chemicals in sunscreen.
Researchers said they would conduct further tests to learn more about the effects of UV filters on the human body.
The chemicals tested on the zebrafish study included octocrylene (known as OC), benzophenone-3 (known as BP-3) and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (known as EHMC), which were found to be the most abundant types of chemical UV filters in Hong Kong waters.
The European Union's International Chemical Secretariat has already established BP-3 as a threat to human health and called for it to be replaced with a safer ingredient.
There is growing international concern over the polluting effects of sunscreen.
Dr. Leung said that these chemicals can accumulate in the human body and cannot be dissolved or diluted simply by drinking water and called for more regulations on the use of chemicals in personal care products. Dr. Leung recommended consumers use mineral-based sunscreens such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide or wear sun-protection clothing.