Risks of organic UV filters: a review of environmental and human health concern studies

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Feb 10;755(Pt 1):142486. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142486. Epub 2020 Sep 24.


Organic UV filters are compounds that absorb UV irradiation by their highly conjugated structure. With the developing consciousness over the last century of the skin damage UV radiation can cause, the demand for organic UV filters has risen, for use not only in sunscreens, but also in other personal care products. The massive production and usage of these organic UV filters has resulted in extensive release into the aquatic environment, and thereby making an important group of emerging contaminants. Considering the widespread occurrence of organic UV filters in not only ambient water, but also sediment, soil and even indoor dust, their threats towards the health of living organisms have been a subject of active investigation. In this review article, we present an overall review of existing knowledge on the risks of organic UV filters from the aspects of both environmental and human health impacts. As for the environment, some organic UV filters are proven to bioaccumulate in various kinds of aquatic organisms, and further to have adverse effects on different kinds of animal models. Toxicological studies including in vivo and in vitro studies are important and effective means to ascertain the effects and mechanisms of organic UV filters on both the ecosystem and humans. Subsequent concerns arise that these compounds will affect human health in the long term. This review concludes by suggesting future lines of research based on the remaining knowledge gaps.

Keywords: Bioaccumulation; Ecotoxicity; Human biomonitoring; Human exposure; Organic UV filters; Risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms
  • Cosmetics*
  • Ecosystem
  • Humans
  • Sunscreening Agents / toxicity
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity


  • Cosmetics
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical