Sunscreens containing zinc oxide nanoparticles can trigger oxidative stress and toxicity to the marine copepod Tigriopus japonicus

Stella W.Y. Wong, Guang Jie Zhou, Priscilla T.Y. Leung, Jeonghoon Han, Jae Seong Lee, Kevin W.H. Kwok, Kenneth M.Y. Leung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The study, for the first time, evaluated the leaching rate of zinc oxide nanoparticles (nZnO) from human skins which were applied with three commercial sunscreens containing nZnO as an active ingredient. The leaching rate of nZnO varied greatly among the sunscreens, with a range of 8–72% (mean ± SD: 45% ± 33%). We further investigated their toxicities to the marine copepod Tigriopus japonicus. We found that 96-h median lethal concentrations of the three sunscreens to T. japonicus were > 5000, 230.6, and 43.0 mg chemical L−1, respectively, equivalent to Zn2+ concentrations at >82.5, 3.2, and 1.2 mg Zn L−1, respectively. Exposure to the individual sunscreens at environmentally realistic concentrations for 96 h led to up-regulation of antioxidant genes in T. japonicus, while they triggered the release of reactive oxygen species based on the results of in vivo assays. Evidently, these nZnO-included sunscreens can cause oxidative stress and hence pose risk to marine organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111078
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Copepod
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Oxidative stress
  • Sunscreen
  • Zinc oxide nanoparticle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution

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