CosmeticOBS-L’Observatoire des Cosmétiques has released a paper on this topic on 25 July 2012 : the Friends of the Earth association stated that the “nanoparticles-free” claim on some sunscreens is deceitful, when they contain Zinc Oxide known as ZinClear IM 50CCT. Their analyses had detected traces of nanomaterial in these sunscreens, while the raw material’s supplier claimed it as “without nano-particles.”
The story of an approval
As of 2008, Ecocert has introduced in its reference frame the principle to ban nano-particles in cosmetic products. This position was taken on behalf of the principle of precaution: indeed, the nanomaterials could be a safety hazard to the health personnel during manufacturing as well as to users when applied, as nanos are able to go through the cutaneous barrier and enter the body.
Ecocert approval of an ingredient that could contain some is based on the supplier providing a “nano-free” certificate. This is the standard procedure for a non vegetable (hence, non-organic) raw material, which the certification body does not audit. On the other hand, the manufacturer shall give the assurance that its product will not be liable to the [nano] labelling enforced in 2013 by the new European Regulation.
“Currently, we cannot analyse all the raw materials that could be nanos,”
Valérie Lemaire, the Ecocert Greenlife CEO, says.
Keep in mind that, up to now, there is no unique definition of a nanomaterial, even less a standard to measure it. In fact, it is a thorny issue for cosmetic manufacturers as well as for the sanitary authorities who control them. Due to the absence of a recognized reference, everyone has to rely on the good faith of the ingredient supplier.
The ZinClear case
Following the warning by Friends of the Earth, Ecocert went to the supplier, the Australian company Antaria, and asked for complementary pieces of information.
“The person who signed the nano-free certificate is no longer in the company, ”
Valérie Lemaire told CosmeticOBS-L’Observatoire des Cosmétiques.
“Antaria has not been so much reactive to our question. We have only been told that the raw material would not have to be labelled after the new Regulation, as it is neither a sun filter nor a colourant … Without no satisfactorily answer, Ecocert has suspended its approval for ZinClear.”
On its website, Antaria goes on by claiming that its ZinClear product is safe for use and does not contain any nanomaterial .
On 6 August 2012, ZinClear has been effectively banned from the list of raw materials approved after the Ecocert reference frame for organic cosmetics. A protective measure, while waiting for more pieces of information.
“We have ordered analyses, several different analyses, as there is no standard, ” Valérie Lemaire added, and we should get the results within three weeks. Ecocert will then decide about the future of this ingredient.”
Until the proof is given that there is (or not) nanoparticles in this ingredient, any formula that should contain it will be barred from the Ecocert certification.
On the other hand, no provision has been made for products already placed on the market, “We have not deleted the certification of current products,” Valérie Lemaire confirms. “Without any proof to sustain this move, we could have been sued.”
This position may be changed when reviewing the results of the analyses ordered by the certification body.
Therefore, does one have to worry about the ZinClear in sunscreens?
“There is no risk for the consumer,”
after Valérie Lemaire.
“Even if ZinClear contains nano-particles, they are aggregated in the finished product.”
Hence, they are too large to go through the cutaneous barrier.
Right, the nano-particles problem is complex.
“A limit has been set by the principle of banning nanoparticles in organic products,” the Ecocert CEO explains. “However, nowadays, it is difficult to give a 100% assurance that no nano-particles goes through all our screenings. The basic parameter is the average size of all the particles in the product; nevertheless, it is always possible that some finer particles be present. In this area, the principle of precaution is not that easy to apply.”
Valérie Lemaire looks back on how the safety of products has been assured,
“Important steps have been taken since Ecocert has established the principle of banning nanos,”
“It was also a message to the manufacturers, which they have well understood: nowadays, there are far less cosmetics with nanos.”
Within the limits today science can give an assurance.
As for ZinClear, we are waiting for the result of the French analyses, within three weeks.