Review of the environmental fate and effects of two UV filter substances

Sunscreens containing UV filter substances, such as octocrylene (OCR) and butyl-methoxydibenzoylmethane (BMDBM), have been increasingly used to protect human skin against UV radiation. Both substances have been detected in monitoring studies in the freshwater and marine environment, and there has been concern about potential effects on aquatic organisms. In the present work, the environmental fate and occurrence, bioaccumulation and ecotoxicity including endocrine effects of OCR and BMDBM are reviewed focusing on the aquatic environment. The two UV filters have low water solubilities and a high sorption potential. The available data indicate that OCR is poorly biodegradable. BMDBM lacks anaerobic and inherent biodegradability, but was biodegraded to variable degrees in simulation studies. Measured concentrations in the freshwater and marine environment were found to vary considerably between sites, depending on the extent of recreational activities or wastewater discharges. While the bioconcentration factor of OCR in fish is below the threshold value for bioaccumulation according to REACH, the available data for BMDBM do not allow a definitive conclusion on its bioaccumulation potential. Analysis of the aquatic toxicity data showed that data quality was often limited, e.g. in the case of effect concentrations substantially exceeding maximum achievable dissolved concentrations. Up to their limit of water solubility, OCR and BMDBM showed no toxicity to microorganisms, algae, and corals, and no acute toxicity to daphnids and fish. In chronic daphnid tests, OCR was highly toxic, whereas BMDBM lacked toxicity. Reliable water-sediment toxicity tests are required to further evaluate possible effects on benthic invertebrates. The available data do not provide evidence for endocrine effects of the two UV filters on fish. In order to assess potential environmental risks caused by OCR and BMDBM, a validated exposure model for estimating direct emission of UV filters into the aquatic environment and data from systematic, longer-term monitoring studies are needed.

For further information, see the publication in Science of the Total Environment:

Duis, K., Junker, T., Coors, A. (2022). Review of the environmental fate and effects of two UV filter substances used in cosmetic products. Science of the Total Environment 808:151931.

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