Release and toxicity comparison between industrial- and sunscreen-derived nano-ZnO particles

E. Spisni, S. Seo, S. H. Joo, C. Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Many consumer products containing ZnO have raised concern for safety in regard to environmental impact and the public health. Widely used sunscreens for protecting against UV and avoiding sunburns represent a great exposure to nano-ZnO, one of the ingredients commonly applied in sunscreens. Applying nanoproducts on beaches may release nanoparticles unintentionally into the ocean. Despite the accumulation of such nanoproducts in the ocean harming or being detrimental to critical marine organisms, few studies have investigated the release and potential toxicity of nanoparticles extracted from products and compared them with those from industrial-type nanoparticles. Results show that the cytotoxicity of both industrial- and sunscreen-derived nano-ZnO to the marine diatom algae, Thalassiosira pseudonana, increased as exposure increases over time, as measured by growth inhibition (%) of the algae at a constant concentration of nano-ZnO (10 mg/L). The extent of toxicity appeared to be higher from industrial-type nano-ZnO compared with sunscreen-extracted nano-ZnO, though the extent becomes similar when concentrations increase to 50 mg/L. On the other hand, at a fixed exposure time of 48 h, the cytotoxicity increases as concentrations increase with the higher toxicity shown from the industrial-type compared with sunscreen-induced nano-ZnO. Results indicate that while industrial-type nano-ZnO shows higher toxicity than sunscreen-derived nano-ZnO, the release and extent of toxicity from nano-ZnO extracted from sunscreen are not trivial and should be monitored for the development of safe manufacturing of nanomaterials-induced products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2485-2494
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Aggregation
  • Commercial ZnO
  • Ecotoxicity
  • Sunscreen ZnO
  • Thalassiosira pseudonana

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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