by Andrew Walden
Worried about sunscreen?
BASF Chemical is laughing at you from the website of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS).
NAS, August 9, 2022, released a report urging more study of sunscreen risks. It’s not a hatchet job--pointing out for instance, “there is no regulatory definition or oversight for what constitutes ‘reef-safe’ that ensures it is scientifically meaningful or accurate” -- but it does urge the US EPA to look into questions about environmental impacts.
Obviously the EPA would focus more on alleged environmental risks than other agencies such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which might be more inclined to weigh concerns about increased risk of skin cancer if sunscreen use is reduced by, say, a chemophobia campaign.
Why the sudden interest by NAS? The answer is ‘generous five-year grant’ -- splashed across the NAS website:
In April 2019, the presidents of the NAS and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (IASH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to benefit outstanding scientists in both countries and to formalize cooperative relations between their scientific communities....
A generous five-year grant by the Blavatnik Family Foundation supports an annual Blavatnik US-Israel Scientific Forum, as well as a visit by a senior researcher from one country to the other to promote collaboration and stimulate academic co-operation and understanding between academic institutions. The first Blavatnik Forum, on Computer Science and Its Impact on Our Future, took place on September 16-18, 2019 in Jerusalem. The second Blavatnik Forum, on Strategies and Technologies to Combat Antibiotic Resistance, was to have taken place in Washington in October 2020, but was postponed to April 6-7, 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find out more about past events here.
Confused? Let me elaborate.
The current anti-sunscreen chemophobia campaign, which controls the public’s sunscreen-related thoughts, begins in 2015 with a coral-sunscreen study fronted in Hawaii by the Haereticus Environmental Lab led by University of Hawaii grad Dr Craig Downs. Haereticus’ study partners include Tel Aviv University.
Billionaire Len Blavatnik owns BASF Chemical and is a member of the academic board at Tel Aviv University. BASF makes Tinosorb, a multi-billion dollar product, which, for decades, has been the leading sunscreen chemical in the European Union.
Len Blavatnik also controls the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
What is the real reason behind the anti-sunscreen campaign?
BASF has been trying to break in to the US sunscreen market for nearly 20 years. They have been blocked by protectionist FDA stalling. By hyping up public doubts about US sunscreen chemicals, BASF hopes to force its way into the lucrative US market.
NAS’ skill consists of protecting its reputation while giving BASF its money’s worth via the proposed EPA sunscreen study.
The Environmental Working Group explains:
Between 2003 and 2010, sunscreen makers applied for FDA permission to use eight sun-filtering chemicals developed by European companies. Four of these – Tinosorb S, Tinosorb M, Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL – appear to be more effective than avobenzone, the most common UVA filter permitted by the FDA. The FDA’s failure to respond to these applications prompted Congress to pass the Sunscreen Innovation Act of 2014 (FDA 2014). This act requires the FDA to review new applications for sunscreen active ingredients within 300 days, but it doesn’t relax the standards companies must meet to prove new ingredients are both safe and effective.
In 2015, the FDA responded that the companies involved had not submitted enough information to prove their chemicals were, in fact, safe and effective for use (FDA 2015). The agency asked for more data, including complete study results, measurements of ingredient levels in people’s blood, and long-term studies on systemic toxicity and potential endocrine system disruption. The FDA has also proposed that all sunscreen ingredients, including those already in use, need to have adequate safety testing data.
Some information the FDA wants, such as complete copies of studies, might be easy for sunscreen makers to produce. But in other cases, the companies could take years to satisfy FDA requests….
Four European sunscreen ingredients merit close consideration for inclusion in U.S. products. Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M UVA filters, developed by BASF, appear to be much stronger and less affected by exposure to light than avobenzone. In an effort to gain access to the U.S. market, BASF gave the FDA the results of toxicity and safety tests, including skin and eye irritation, phototoxicity, dermal toxicity and oral feeding studies (Regulations.gov 2008a, 2008b). The European Commission has examined Tinosorb S (SCCNFP 1999) and Tinosorb M (SCCS 2013) and determined that both ingredients could safely be used in sunscreens in concentrations of up to 10 percent. In 2014, the FDA asked BASF for more details about tests of both chemicals….
In February, 2019, the FDA released a final draft of the sunscreen monograph, in which the agency proposed to strengthen its standard for UVA protection. It also proposed a more protective UVA standard in 2007, but never implemented it, because of significant industry pressure….
Two months after the FDA’s ‘final draft’, Blavatnik suddenly became very ‘generous’ with NAS.