Sunscreen Chemicals Cause Infertility, Birth Defects in Zebra Fish

In a study by the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), it was found that three commonly used chemicals in sunscreen, BP-3 (benzophenone-3), EHMC (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) and OC (octocrylene) caused abnormalities such as infertility and birth defects in Zebrafish. The researchers pointed to how sunscreen entered the ecosystem and warned of similar effects on human beings if contamination levels through direct contact were sustained.


According to Associate Professor at the HKBU, Kelvin Leung Sze-yin, “UV light increases the risk of premature skin ageing, freckles and triggers skin cancer. Organic or chemical UV filters that can absorb or block UV radiation, are extensively applied in personal care products including sunscreens.” He added that these products entered the environment after being washed off, either in the sea directly, or in waste water that came from bathing facilities in seaside showers or other similar areas, and once they were absorbed by marine life and eventually concentrated in food sources that people derived from the sea, there was a great risk of the same happening to them as well.


The experiments that the team at HKBU carried out involved a 47-day feeding schedule of contaminated brine shrimp to the zebra fish, where the water used to rear the brine shrimp contained the three most commonly found chemicals in sunscreen products. The researchers found that while there were no visible effects of contamination on the zebra fish, the mortality rate increased drastically from 10 to 60 percent, while the hatching rate declined from 80 to 30 percent. Sye-zin pointed out the relevance of this study on human beings, saying “Since more than 70 per cent of the genetic structure of zebra fish resembles that of humans, the effect of these contaminants passing along the food chain to humans and the long-term impact on human fertility cannot be neglected.”

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