Shining light on sunscreens

Trinity College Colac’s “emerging science” class students Tim Parker, Indy Paddick, Jessica Fish and Natasha Heming wipe sunscreen off timber panels in an experiment with the Friends of the Earth researchers.

Trinity College Colac students Tim Parker, Indy Paddick, Jessica Fish and Natasha Heming test sunscreens with Friends of the Earth researchers.

A COLAC experiment has shed light on sunscreen chemicals which could damage the skin.

Trinity College Colac Year Nine students worked with Friends of the Earth researchers to test 17 brands of sunscreen and their effect on varnished timber and Colorbond steel.

The students spread sunscreen on half of each timber or steel panel and left them in the sun for 12 weeks to see if the panels would deteriorate.

The steel tests were inconclusive but the timber results showed almost all sunscreens stripped away the varnish.

The worst-affected timber panel had been covered in a sunscreen which contained nanoparticles of anatase titanium dioxide.

A 2008 Blue Scope Steel study also found the nanoparticles reacted with sunlight to produce free radicals, which broke down Colorbond steel coating 100 times faster than usual.

Friends of the Earth nanotechnology project co-ordinator Louise Sales said the results raised “serious questions” about what the ingredients could do to people’s skin.

“It’s incredible that these ingredients are allowed in children’s sunscreen products,” Ms Sales said.

“We are calling on the government to urgently ban the use of anatase titanium dioxide in sunscreen,” she said.

“They also need to ensure that any other nano-ingredients in sunscreen are labelled and undergo stringent safety testing.”

Trinity works with Friends of the Earth for experiment

Video courtesy Friends of the Earth

Trinity science teacher Nat Bannan said the experiment encouraged students to pay more attention to sunscreen ingredients.

“The kids came up with the conclusion that there’s certain properties within sunscreens that might have an impact,” Mr Bannan said.

“The kids started to question, is that doing anything to their skin?

“Do they need to make better decisions?”

Mr Bannan said the Friends of the Earth combined with the “emerging science” class because he went to university with one of the organisation’s employees.

“Not all kids like particular subjects and if all they get out of science is to ask questions and make their own informed decisions, they’re a step ahead,” he said.

Comments are closed.