Children’s sunscreen contains hidden nanoparticle ingredients, new testing finds

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four major brands of children’s sunscreen products sold across the U.S. contain engineered nanoparticles, according to laboratory results released today by Friends of the Earth U.S. Nanoparticles were found in Aveeno® Baby Natural Protection®, Banana Boat® Kids, Neutrogena® Pure and Free® Baby and Thinksport™ Kid’s Safe sunscreen.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles are widely used in sunscreens due to their transparent appearance. The size and chemical characteristics of nanomaterials can potentially create unique and unpredictable human health and environmental risks.

“Potentially hazardous nanomaterials shouldn’t be used in sunscreens or other products ahead of safety assessment, oversight and labeling, especially those intended for children,” said Ian Illuminato, senior health and environment campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S. “Consumers must be empowered to make healthy decisions for their families and to avoid exposure to chemicals that put them at risk. Companies should make information on nanoparticle ingredients used in their products available to the public and avoid using these ingredients in children’s products. Our government should test and require approval for these products before commercialization.”

The unique properties of nanomaterials, including tiny size and vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, have enticed manufacturers to experiment with these ingredients in hundreds of consumer products including sunscreens, cosmetics, baby formula and other food products.

Often, nanoparticles have made it into these products without mandatory safety assessment, regulation or labeling. While Europe already requires the safety testing and labeling of nano-ingredients in sunscreens, the U.S. has yet to follow suit.

Friends of the Earth’s review of consumer products has found that nanoparticles have entered just about every category of personal care product on the market, including deodorant, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, hair conditioner, sunscreen, anti-wrinkle cream, moisturizer, foundation, face powder, lipstick, blush, eye shadow, nail polish, perfume and after-shave lotion. We have also found nanoparticles of concern in other children’s products including baby formula, see Friends of the Earth U.S. report “Nanoparticles in Baby Formula: Tiny New Ingredients are a Big Concern.”

Read more about the risks of nanosunscreens and recommendations for companies, regulators and consumers in the report Nanoparticles in Children’s Sunscreen: 2018 test results, health concerns and recommendations for parents, companies and regulators.

Expert contact: Ian Illuminato, (250) 335-3250,
Communications contact: Patrick Davis, (202) 222-0744,

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New Survey Finds One in Seven Wildlife Rangers Have Been Seriously Injured in the Line of Duty Over the Past Year

New results released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to mark World Ranger Day reveal that one in seven wildlife rangers (14 percent) surveyed across Asia and Central Africa have been seriously injured at work within the last 12 months. The results, part of the largest ever survey on ranger employment conditions and welfare, come as the official death toll from July 2017-18 has been confirmed by the International Ranger Federation (IRF) & Thin Green Line Foundation (TGLF) as 107 – up from 101 last year.

This brings the total number of reported rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty to 871* since 2009, which is when IRF and TGLF started to officially record the incidents. However, experts believe the actual number of deaths to be much higher than the reported number.

“The stats this year, 48 rangers of the 107 lost this year, were murdered at their place of work whilst protecting wildlife that we all care about. Another 50 died in work place accidents due to the dangerous nature of a ranger’s life.  But these are not just statistics, these are men and women, rangers, who leave families behind, often with little support except for what we can provide. As a world community we need to do more and we have to do better in training and equipping rangers so that they have a greater chance of returning home to their families after a patrol,” said Sean Willmore, President of the IRF and Founder of its charity arm, TGLF.

WWF’s survey, which will be published later this year, has been completed by rangers working in Asia and Central Africa. WWF is also currently conducting the survey in East Africa. These regions are renowned as the most dangerous for the profession due to high levels of poaching to feed the demand for illegal wildlife trade products, largely coming from China and neighboring countries.

World-over, we’re facing a rapid decline in nature, including some of our most beloved species. Rangers are on the front line of protecting much of this iconic wildlife and due to the very nature of their job, it comes as little or no surprise that they risk facing life-threatening situations. What is shocking is that despite their willingness to bear these grave risks to help save our shared wildlife, few are receiving fair pay, insurance and adequate training,” said Rohit Singh, WWF’s Zero Poaching Lead & President, Ranger Federation of Asia.

An overwhelming majority (86 percent) of rangers think their job is dangerous due to the grave risks associated with encountering or confronting poachers. Recent tragic incidents show that these concerns are not unfounded.

This year saw the murder of, Rachel Katumwa, the first female ranger thought to be killed while on duty in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just a month prior to Rachel’s murder in the same area, suspected members of an armed militia group that were involved in poaching activity gunned down five wildlife rangers and their driver. It was the worst attack in Virunga’s history and the latest in a long line of tragic incidents in which rangers have lost their lives defending the planet’s natural heritage.

Despite high risks from armed poachers, dangerous encounters with wildlife and exposure to infectious diseases like malaria, only 15 percent of the rangers surveyed had been trained in first aid within the last year and almost six out of ten (58 percent) felt that when most in need of medical treatment, the services they received were not sufficient.

In Asia, on average a ranger gets paid $292 USD per month, and in Central Africa $150 USD per month– most often this is the main (or only) source of income for their families. The survey also highlights the concerning lack of insurance for rangers and their dependents. Despite life-changing injuries and death so commonplace within the profession, just 36 percent indicated that they had insurance coverage for such situations. Should rangers become injured and are no longer able to work – or worse yet, are killed – in the line of duty, the entire family are left vulnerable to a life of poverty.

“Nothing can compensate those that have sacrificed their lives and livelihoods to protect our wildlife, but we hope that by bringing to light these challenges, urgent steps will be taken to address them and in turn, improve the lives and working conditions of rangers and their families,” said  Drew McVey,  East Africa Wildlife Crime Technical Advisor, WWF.

WWF is calling upon governments to urgently review and improve shortcomings that are endangering the lives of wildlife rangers. Adequate training, including widely-adopted first aid training for rangers, strong emergency medical treatment plans, as well as equipment and communications devices appropriate for field conditions should be among the matters most urgently needing a review. Additionally, 100% insurance coverage for serious injuries and loss of life is a critical next step for rangers and their families.

At the upcoming London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, taking place in October this year, we must see commitments from world leaders in countries where wildlife poaching occurs to ensure they have adequate numbers of properly equipped, trained and insured rangers. WWF hopes to work closely with these governments and other concerned partners to ensure rangers are recognized and supported with the same respect as other public service professions putting their lives on the line to work towards providing us all with a better world.

Leopards, Pythons and Zebras Turned Into Potions, Boots and Lamps. This Warehouse Holds the Grisly Goods of an Illegal Trade

Tall shelves run the length of the 16,000-square-foot facility laden with animals reduced to potions, powders, boots, belts and trophies.

A snow leopard head peers from inside a plastic bag. A baby rhino foot has been turned into a pencil holder. A python is now a pair of thigh-high boots.

Most disturbing perhaps is a mounted tiger fetus, its tiny ears barely rising above its head. Long dead, it still has a look of despair.

“Even if you don’t find it attractive, somebody does,” said Sarah Metzer, education specialist here at the National Wildlife Property Repository, home to over 1.3 million items seized at ports throughout the nation. “There are many different value systems. But the use doesn’t matter, it’s the impact on the species.”

The repository resides inside the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Denver. It’s run by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service which receives regular shipments from its agents and inspectors throughout the country. One day it could be a giraffe head, the next a zebra leg lamp. Live animals that are seized are handled elsewhere. The warehouse also holds endangered plant species, including varieties of rosewood.

A view of the exterior of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository.
A view of the exterior of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository. (Matthew Staver / For The Times)

The wildlife repository, which has been here since 1995, is the only one of its kind. It is used primarily for education, offering a tactile immersion into the dark world of poaching and illegal trafficking. A delegation of African conservation officers visited last year for training in tracking and cataloging products of the illicit trade. Some of the contraband is sent to zoos, science centers and universities.

“My goal is to have people see the sheer volume of what we have here,” Metzer said. “We are not talking about one shark or one turtle. We have 1.3 million items, and that’s just here, and it’s a small fraction of what is seized each year.”

Each port decides what to send to the repository and what to dispose of. Some keep the contraband for their own educational use.

Metzer sees her role as “speaking for animals that don’t have a voice” and hopes the experience of seeing wildlife turned into trinkets might cause people to rethink what they buy.

“We want these animals to have a new life,” she said. “One that connects them to people in a new way.”

But the shipments keep coming. Despite bans on ivory and high-profile public information campaigns, the illegal wildlife trade is booming.

Rachel Kramer, manager of wildlife conservation at the World Wildlife Fund and the wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC, said such trade is now worth about $20 billion annually. That doesn’t include the up to $23.5 billion a year generated by illegal and unreported fishing and the estimated $100 billion from the illicit timber trade.

A variety of threatened and endangered species inside the National Wildlife Property Repository.
A variety of threatened and endangered species inside the National Wildlife Property Repository. (Matthew Staver / Los Angeles Times)

Globalization and growing economies, she said, are driving the increase, along with better transportation links between the wilderness and consumer markets.

“These are huge numbers,” Kramer said. “You don’t see these kinds of illicit flows unless there is organized crime and corruption involved.”

TRAFFIC has reported that “entrenched criminal syndicates of Chinese origin” are active in South Africa manufacturing bracelets, beads, powders and other illegal items from rhino horns and then smuggled out of the country.

Yet while China is a top consumer of rhino horns and other products made from endangered species, the U.S. is also a major market for illegal wildlife.

“The U.S. market is consumer-based, it’s a transit point and a source for certain species, like freshwater turtles,” Kramer said. “A U.S. national was convicted for trafficking in North American box and spotted turtles to Asia. Bear parts are also a problem.”

A shelf of turtles inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository in Commerce City, Colo.
A shelf of turtles inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository in Commerce City, Colo. (Matthew Staver / For The Times)

The country is a source nation for black bears, which are poached for their paws and gall bladders.

Metzer walked past a table covered with bear heads to a beautifully crafted Chinese box. Inside were small vials of crystallized bear bile, used in traditional medicine.

There were also packets of powdered seahorses and remedies containing toad venom and leopard bone to “promote blood circulation.” Another box held rhino horn pills that the makers claimed would combat night sweats and laryngitis. (There is little scientific evidence to support the healing properties of any of the products.)

“We are not here to tell people that traditional medicine is wrong; we are here to tell them that the populations of animals are different today,” Metzer said. “There simply aren’t as many as there once were.”

An imposing white rhino head and a footstool made of an elephant foot stood near the back of the warehouse. There were rows of cobra skin boots, swords made from swordfish, cockfighting spurs created from sea turtle shells and bags of pangolin scales.

Pangolins, which slightly resemble small anteaters, are the most trafficked mammals on earth. Despite international bans on their trade, they are widely poached in Asia and Africa for their scales and meat.

“The scales are believed to have medicinal properties,” Metzer said.

The shelves were organized by their contents. One held boxes of elephant parts — tanned elephant skins, elephant tails, elephant hair bracelets and elephant skin shoes.

An aisle full of various cats inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository.
An aisle full of various cats inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository. (Matthew Staver / For The Times)

The overall impact of seeing thousands upon thousands of threatened and endangered species transformed into bits and pieces of commerce is numbing. And the way the animals are portrayed in death — the shoddy taxidermy, for instance — makes it even more grotesque.

A row of tiger heads had their mouths twisted in faux snarls. Margays, a small wild cat native to Central and South America, grimaced through broken teeth. Some had crossed eyes.

Metzer offers tours of the facility to the public. She said people are often conflicted when they come in. Some may find a ball-python-trimmed purse fetching while being repulsed by a lion pelt, or vice versa.

“It’s odd what people are attracted to,” she said. “You have pieces of art that are exquisite but the medium is wrong.”

Some of that art is made from the endangered hawksbill sea turtle. They are tagged and bagged in plastic here to protect them from insects. Jewelry boxes made of their luminous shells sit alongside them.

Yet amid this grisly tableau, Metzer finds reason for optimism.

“This warehouse oddly represents hope,” she said. “As macabre as it it seems, without it we would not have the tactile opportunities to see the wildlife trade up close and maybe change attitudes.”

Kelly is a special correspondent.