Tiny nanoparticles commonly used in sunscreens caused long-term neurological damage in mice, researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found.
The study found that titania, listed on sunscreen labels as titanium oxide, induced cultured mice brain cells to manufacture chemicals that are protective in the short term but can cause damage over time.
It is not known whether the same holds true for humans, but recently eight lobby groups, including Friends of the Earth and The International Center for Technology Assessment, petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about safety risks of nanoparticles in cosmetics and personal care products.
Scientists say the tiny particles may have different chemical compositions than their larger derivatives, and because nanoparticles are so small they are more easily absorbed into the skin, raising potential risks.
It will still be years before the safety of nanotechnology can be proven, however, the particles are already being put into use in sunscreens, toothpaste, makeup and other products.