An ingredient commonly used in sunscreen can break down into toxic chemicals when exposed to chlorinated water and sunlight, a team of Russian researchers found.
The chemical, avobenzone, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1988 and is listed among the ingredients of many sunscreens in the United States.
Avobenzone is used by millions of people in sunblocks, lipsticks, lip balms, and moisturizers due to its powerful capacity to block skin cancer-causing ultraviolet rays.
But new lab tests simulating conditions commonly found at a summer pool party showed the chemical can break down into dangerous toxins, researchers said.
Scientists from the Faculty of Chemistry of the Lomonosov Moscow State University used chromatomass spectrometry to probe how the chemical reacts in chlorinated water and sunlight, and discovered it can break down into an array of organic compounds including aromatic acids, aldehydes, phenols, and acetyl benzenes.
“It's known that acetyl benzenes and phenols, especially chlorinated ones, are quite toxic,” said chemist Albert Lebedev, one of the authors of the team’s paper, which is published in the journal Chemosphere.