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Sun cream protects, but are there health risks?

17/2020, 28.05.2020

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment answers the most important questions

At the beach, in the park or on the balcony: when the sun shines brightly, sunburn is often not far away. To prevent this from happening, uncovered skin should be protected with sun cream. For the meteorological beginning of summer, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has put together some of the most important questions and answers about the health risks of sunscreen products:  How do they provide protection from UV radiation? Are the UV filter substances used harmful to health? How should the nanomaterial used, titanium dioxide, be assessed? Are sunscreen products tested at all? The answers to these and other questions can be found on the BfR website. "If you’re staying in the sun, you should protect yourself from UV radiation. Sun creams protect the skin with their UV filters", says BfR president Professor Andreas Hensel. "UV filters are assessed by the presiding scientific committee of the European Union, and are safe." By the by: According to the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), the best protection from sunburn is to avoid the intensive UV radiation of the sun. If you are outside for a long period, the skin should be covered with clothing and any uncovered areas covered with sun cream.

Sunscreen products contain filter substances. They do not allow the ultraviolet UV rays of the sun to get as far as the skin. Distinctions must be made between organic chemical and mineral filters. In organic chemical filters - such as octinoxate - molecules absorb sun radiation and convert it into heat. Mineral filters such as titanium dioxide reflect the sunlight back like tiny mirrors. Sunscreen products often contain chemical and mineral UV filters. According to the current state of science, no impairments to health are to be expected from these UV filters in sunscreen products available in the European Union. The reason: UV filters must be investigated for health risks and scientifically assessed before being used on a European level.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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