UV filter occurrence in beach water of the Mediterranean coast – A field survey over 2 years in Palavas‐les‐Flots, France


  • Thallinger Delphine
  • Labille Jerome
  • Milinkovitch Thomas
  • Boudenne Jean‐luc
  • Loosli Frédéric
  • Slomberg Danielle L
  • Angeletti Bernard
  • Lefrançois Christel


  • Chemical analysis
  • Environmental concentration
  • Risk assessment
  • Safety testing
  • Spectroscopy
  • UV filter release

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Abstract Objective A 2‐year sampling campaign was realized on French Mediterranean beach (Palavas‐les‐Flots Hérault) in order to measure the concentration of UV filters released from the sunscreen used by bathers. Multiple factors suspected of playing determining roles in the UV filter pattern in water were explored, such as the seasonal and daily time evolutions, or the vertical and horizontal distributions, and they were regarded through the UV filter characteristics. Methods The beach was monitored during periods of high and low tourist attendance, typically before, during and after the summer peak. The beachgoers attendance was counted. Bathing water was sampled distinctly from the bulk column and from the top surface layer, testing different sampling tools. Sediments and mussels were also sampled and analysed as potential UV filter sinks. Three organic UV filters (octocrylene OCR, avobenzone BMDBM and octyl methoxycinnamate OMC) and one mineral (titanium dioxide TiO 2 ) were studied here as representatives of the current cosmetic market. Results Summer peak attendance on the beach was confirmed associated with peak levels of UV filter concentration in the bathing water, even more pronounced during a heat wave period. This relation was also observed at day scale with an afternoon peak, suggesting a rapid evolution of the UV filter pattern in water. Contrasted fates were measured between the four studied UV filters, that could be mainly explained by their respective characteristics, i.e. particulate or dissolved, hydrophilic or lipophilic, lifetime. Generally, this resulted in a concentration ranking TiO 2 > OCR > OMC > BMDBM, ranging from 0.5 to 500 μg/L. The most lipophilic and recalcitrant OCR was found most vertically differentiated and over concentrated in the top surface layer of water. Finally, a large horizontal heterogeneity was also observed in the UV filter concentration pattern, raising the need for sample replicates that cover a significant area. Conclusion This work fulfils some knowledge gaps on the issue of UV filter release in coastal environments, not only by providing original field data and methodological recommendations but also importantly in the comparison made of organic and mineral UV filters, which are often considered separately and rarely evaluated at the same time.

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