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article imageUSDA scientist: Soybean sunscreen protects skin and environment

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By Elizabeth Cunningham Perkins     Mar 23, 2010 in Science
A USDA researcher reports that his team has developed a new process for converting soybean oil into a non-toxic, natural sunscreen agent that is friendlier to the environment than many petroleum-based ingredients.
A research team with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Peoria, Ill. is presenting a new method of converting soybean oil into an effective "bio-based" sunscreen. Their report is one of 12,000 scheduled presentations at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) being held this week in San Francisco.
The scientists claim the new sunscreen agent poses fewer health and environmental risks than the petroleum-derived ingredients that are often added to personal-care products, such as the suspected oxidizing agent and hormone disrupter oxybenzone, (previously reported about on Digital Journal) that could produce free-radicals in the human body and disturb aquatic species reproduction.
Lead author Joseph Laszlo, Ph.D. said:
"We're trying to provide nature-inspired skin-care materials that avoid such health concerns and at the same time have fewer adverse environmental impacts."
Laszlo groups sunscreens with "pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs)" that have raised environmental health conerns relatively recently as water contaminants with possible adverse health effects on people and wildlife.
According to background information provided by Laszlo and colleagues:
Sunscreens shield the skin from UV-A and UV-B light. UV-A is absorbed by deeper skin layers and is linked to DNA damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation, a potentially cancer causing oxidation process. UV-B light causes sunburn and has been a major focus of the sunscreen industry for years.
Some petroleum-based sunscreen ingredients have been linked with additional ROS formation when illuminated by UV-A.
The process developed by Laszlo and his team uses ferulic acid to convert soybean oil into a bio-based active sunscreen (or anti-aging or anti-wrinkle product) ingredient that can absorb both UV- A and UV-B light.
This new material, produced commercially by iSoy Technologies Corporation, is called feruloyl soy glycerides (FSG).
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress with offices in Washington, D.C. and Columbus, Ohio. Currently, the ACS boasts more than 161,000 members
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