Assessing UV filter inputs into beach waters during recreational activity: A field study of three French Mediterranean beaches from consumer survey to water analysis.


  • Labille Jérôme
  • Slomberg Danielle
  • Catalano Riccardo
  • Robert Samuel
  • Trémélo Marie-Laure
  • Boudenne Jean-Luc
  • Manasfi Tarek
  • Radakovitch Olivier

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In order to assess the release of UV filters from the sunscreen used by beachgoers into seawater within the bathing zone, a field campaign was carried out during the summer of 2017 at three beaches in Marseille, along the French Mediterranean coast. A social survey analyzed beachgoer attendance, the quantities and types of suncare products used and the bathing frequencies, while the bathing water was analyzed spatially and temporally so as to quantify both mineral and organic UV filters directly released and recovered. During the peak recreational time at the three beaches, both mineral and organic UV filters were detected in higher concentrations in the bathing area than offshore. In general, higher concentrations were recovered in the water top surface layer than in the water column, giving respectively 100-900 and 20-50 µg/L for TiO2, 10-15 and 1-3 µg/L for ZnO, 40-420 and 30-150 ng/L for octocrylene, and 10-15 and 10-350 ng/L for avobenzone. More than 75% of the 471 interviewees reported bathing every time they go to the beach, with 68% using a suncare product 2.6 times on average and preferring medium (30) or very high (50+) sun protection factors. From these data we estimated that an average mass of 50 kg/day or 1.4 t/month of suncare products are possibly released into bathing water for a beach attended by 3,000 people daily. The mass ratio of UV filters in such products typically ranges from 0.03 to 0.1, allowing us to propose theoretical maximum concentrations in the beach water. Our recovery of measured UV filter concentrations in seawater compared to the theoretical concentrations revealed two distinct scenarios for the mineral and organic filters. While up to 45% of the mineral filters used by beachgoers may be released into the seawater, the organic filters were minimally recovered in the environment, most likely due to internalization through the skin barrier or partial photodegradation.

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