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Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Sep 3;53(17):10177-10187. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b02739. Epub 2019 Aug 14.

Sunscreens as a New Source of Metals and Nutrients to Coastal Waters.

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Green Engineering and Resources Group (GER), Department of Chemistry and Process & Resource Engineering, ETSIIT , University of Cantabria , Av. Castros s/n , 39005 Santander , Cantabria , Spain.
Department of Ecology and Coastal Management , Institute of Marine Sciences of Andalusia, ICMAN (CSIC) , Campus Río San Pedro , 11510 Puerto Real, Cádiz , Spain.


Studies detailing the environmental impact of sunscreen products on coastal ecosystems are considered a high priority. In the present study, we have determined the release rate of dissolved trace metals (Al, Cd, Cu, Co, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, and Ti) and inorganic nutrients (SiO2, P-PO43-, and N-NO3-) from a commercial sunscreen in seawater, and the role of UV radiation in the mobilization of these compounds. Our results indicate that release rates are higher under UV light conditions for all compounds and trace metals except Pb. We have developed a kinetic model to establish the release pattern and the contribution to marine coastal waters of dissolved trace metals and inorganic nutrients from sunscreen products. We conservatively estimate that sunscreen from bathers is responsible for an increase of dissolved metals and nutrients ranging from 7.54 × 10-4 % for Ni up to 19.8% for Ti. Our results demonstrate that sunscreen products are a significant source of metals and inorganic nutrients to coastal waters. The normally low environmental concentrations of some elements (e.g., P) and the toxicity of others (e.g., Pb) could be having a serious adverse effect on marine ecology in the Mediterranean Sea. This risk must not be ignored.


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