Characterization of User PM Exposure During the Application of Aerosol Mineral-Based Sunscreens Shows Minimal Risk

Kexin Lai, Shu Wei Looi, Mengfan Li, Firdevs Ilçi, Hanah Naushad, Jeremy Gernand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study characterizes particles emitted from three commercial sunscreen sprays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. Sample collection and measurement were made at 20 cm longitudinally and 36 cm laterally from the emission point to simulate the point of inhalation for an application on one’s arm. Over 85% of all particles by count had a diameter of less than 100 nm. The three products had a mass median diameter of 0.65 µm, 1.40 µm, and 1.70 µm, respectively. The collected aerosols in the breathing zone from application of the sunscreen sprays with TiO2 and ZnO contained less than advertised. The product containing only TiO2 as active ingredient generated aerosols with a higher mass fraction of TiO2. The total particle mass concentrations of the sunscreens were 0.77 µg/m3, 0.57 µg/m3, and 0.80 µg/m3, respectively. The PM2.5 mass concentrations were 0.45 µg/m3, 0.30 µg/m3, and 0.37 µg/m3, respectively. The estimated mass concentrations for total particles, PM2.5, TiO2, ZnO, and SiO2 did not exceed the regulatory limits by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) or the recommended limits by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), meaning 8-h daily average exposures at these levels throughout a typical career would comply with current regulations. Consequently, applying the three sunscreen sprays does not pose a significant hazard via respiratory exposure under these conditions, and considering the transient and relatively infrequent use by most consumers, a substantial factor of safety exists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-20
Number of pages9
JournalAerosol Science and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Pollution


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