Nano article July 2012

The Australia Institute is supporting a complaint made to ACCC by Friends of the Earth (FOE) regarding claims made by Antaria Limited that the zinc oxide sunscreen ingredient it manufactures – ZinClear IM™ is ‘non-nano’. FOE have subsequently made another complaint about Ross Cosmetics which claims that products used to manufacture sunscreens for third parties were ‘nano particle free’. FOE alleges these claims are deceptive and misleading. Both companies based their claims on their own definition of what nano is, rather than the international definition developed through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the European Union, or Australia’s chemicals regulator NICNAS.

False nano-free claims first came to light in February, following testing by the National Measurement Institute (NMI) of six Australian sunscreen brands, three of which contained ZinClear IM. In response, FOE commissioned the NMI to review the patent for ZinClear IM patent filed by Antaria Ltd in 2008. In their report the NMI concluded that “It is the opinion of the National Measurement Institute (NMI) that the “mesoporous zinc oxide powder” described in Patent US 2010/0310871 A1 is a “nanomaterials” according to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Specifications, and an “industrial nanomaterial” as defined in the Australian Government National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) document “Guidance on New Chemical Requirements for Notification of Industrial Materials”.

 Antaria Limited and Ross Cosmetics are now denying these allegations. However, the original testing by NMI was much more rigorous than the laser light scattering measuring techniques used by the Antaria and Ross — testing which does not differentiate between bulk particles and agglomerates/aggregates (clumps) of nanoparticles (described as nanomaterials under both Australian and international definitions).

At least 13 brands appear to have been misled by these companies, including Cancer Council ‘Classic’, Invisible Zinc ‘Junior’ and ‘Body’ sunscreens, Coles ‘Sports’ and Woolworth’s ‘Clear Zinc’. This in turn means tens of thousands of Australian consumers have also been misled.  At time of writing one company, Mukti, has already recalled its affected ‘Tinted Moisturiser’ product.  

 In 2010 The Australia Institute conducted a survey of community attitudes to labelling of products which contain nano-ingredients and 85% of respondents said that labelling should be compulsory for sunscreens and cosmetics. Europe will require safety testing and labelling of nano –ingredients in sunscreen from 2013 and New Zealand will require labelling on nano-ingredients in sunscreens from 2015.

 The Australia Government and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) continue to reject calls for labelling. Do they also refuse to regulate the process to ensure, that where labelling is volunteered by companies, such labels are truthful?

The complaint against Antaria is also supported by the Public Health Association of Australia, Australian Education Union, Australian Council of Trade Unions, State Public Services Federation Group of the CPSU, the Community and Public Sector Union, Consumer Action Law Centre, National Toxics Network, GeneEthics, Victorian Trades Hall Council, Ethical Consumer Group and MADGE.

For further information

There is an online petition at

For a good overview of the issue see The Australia Institute’s research  – What you should know about nano by Fern Wickson in 2009

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