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Toxicol Ind Health. 2003 Feb;19(1):9-16.

Sunscreens containing physical UV blockers can increase transdermal absorption of pesticides.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60201, USA.


People are encouraged to wear sunscreens because of their effectiveness at reducing the risk of skin cancer. The dermal penetration of the herbicide 2,4-D can be enhanced by commercial formulations containing chemical ultraviolet (UV) absorbers, the absorbers themselves and the insect repellent DEET. This work has been extended to determine whether commercially available sunscreens containing the physical UV absorbers titanium dioxide (TiO2) or zinc oxide (ZnO) enhance the transdermal absorption of pesticides. Hairless mouse skin was pretreated with either commercially available sunscreens or the UV absorbers themselves, dissolved in phenyl trimethicone. In vitro permeability studies were performed with the pesticides 2,4-D, paraquat, parathion or malathion. The data demonstrate that pretreatment with five of the nine sunscreens tested increased the transdermal absorption of 2,4-D (P<0.05). Transdermal studies using paraquat, parathion and malathion pretreated with a representative sunscreen all demonstrated significant penetration enhancement when compared to controls (P<0.05). Repeated 2,4-D and sunscreen applications resulted in either no change between pulses or an increase in absorption after the second pulse depending on the washing regimen. Examining penetration of individual UV absorbers formulated in phenyl trimethicone showed that that ZnO can impede 2,4-D penetration and TiO2 had no effect. Combining UV absorbers in the presence of trimethicone resulted in 'sunscreens' that could actually inhibit 2,4-D penetration. Inert ingredients therefore control the increased absorption seen in commercial sunscreen products and this enhancement can be eliminated by substituting phenyl trimethicone as the solvent. Sunscreen use must still be encouraged even with the undesirable side effect of increased penetration through the skin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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