What is it?
Phenolic benzotriazoles is a class of compounds, with the chemical formula C12H9N3O, that mainly functions as ultraviolet (UV) stabilizers and UV light absorbers. The compounds of this class are structurally very similar and some of the most common ones are UV-320, UV-327, UV-328 and UV-350.
What are the effects?
This substance belongs to the groups:
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) classifies the phenolic benzotriazoles as follows:
UV-320 – “may cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure, is harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects and is suspected of causing cancer.”
UV-327 – “may cause damage to organs, is harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects, causes serious eye irritation, causes skin irritation and may cause respiratory irritation.”
UV-328 – as a substance that “may cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure and may cause long lasting harmful effects to aquatic life.”
UV-350 – as a substance that “may cause long lasting harmful effects to aquatic life and may cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.”
All of the four above compounds are also on ECHA Candidate List of “Substances of very High Concern.” ECHA has also concluded that they are all bioaccumulating substances.
Four additional chemicals in this class, UV-P, UV-234, UV-326 and UV-329, are currently under assessment.
While not all compounds in this class have yet been assessed – ECHA also points out that the substances in this class are structurally very similar and also that the degradation process; the breakdown products, are similar. This means that data known for one substance can be used for the others. This is useful as data is scarce for many of the compounds in this group.
The U.S National Toxicology Program (NTP) reports that concentrations of phenolic benzotriazoles have been found in rivers and sediments in China, the U.S, Spain, and Japan. The NTP also concludes that concentrations have been found in marine species that humans consume. Other human exposure can come from oral or dermal exposure, or through inhalation.
In regards to toxicology, the NTP have found through animal tests that these chemicals affects the liver and the hematology (blood), increases relative organ weight, are cytotoxic (toxic to cells), decreases body weight and fetal body weight and development, and delays skeletal maturation.
Japan has identified UV-350 as “persistent, highly bioaccumulative substances which pose a risk of long-term toxicity to humans or top predator animals”. Other substances in this group share the classification except “with unclear long-term effects in humans or top predator animals”
Australian Government Department of Health concludes that ”The majority of the chemicals in this group have been identified as persistent and bioaccumulative substances which are of concern for the environment.”
How is it used?
Phenolic benzotriazoles has a high production volume and are in large and widespread use globally. They are used in various products and materials because they can absorb the full spectrum of UV light.
As they can absorb both UV-A and UV-B, it makes them very attractive and widely used UV-stabilizers. They are especially common to find in polymers such as transparent plastic material, for example PET bottles. But they are also commonly used in paints and as uv-protection agents in coatings for cars and wood.
If found in cosmetics*, it is mainly in sunscreens. But they are reportedly also used as fragrance ingredients, or in formulations for products such as lip glosses and moisturizers.
We use the European Commissions definition of Cosmetics:
“Cosmetics range from everyday hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to luxury beauty items including perfumes and makeup”.
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