Multi-day diurnal measurements of Ti-containing nanoparticle and organic sunscreen chemical release during recreational use of a natural surface water†
Clear Creek in Golden, Colorado sees a large number of recreational users during summer, which is expected to result in release of sunscreen chemicals to the water. In this study, water samples were collected hourly for 72 hours over a busy holiday weekend, and were analyzed for the organic chemical – based (oxybenzone) and inorganic colloidal (titanium dioxide) active sunscreen constituents. An increase in oxybenzone concentration was observed daily during each day's peak recreational use, approximately 12:00 to 19:00 h. This corresponded with an increase in titanium concentration. Metals naturally co-occurring with titanium such as aluminum and iron also showed an increase of these elements during bathing periods as well, suggesting the titanium increase may also be partially the result of sediment resuspension, consistent with the shallow water depth. The ratio of titanium to both aluminum and iron increases relative to the background elemental ratios during peak recreational use. Estimates of titanium mass loading suggested that sunscreen use only could not explain the observed Ti : Al and Ti : Fe ratios and that resuspended sediments likely have an elevated titanium metal ratio compared to natural suspended sediments. Single particle ICP-MS (spICP-MS), used to analyze water samples for Ti-containing particles, did not show diurnal trends in total particle number. Overall, this is the first consecutive-multi-day monitoring study for compounds released from sunscreen to a natural water system, and it highlights the challenges in dealing with detection of NPs above a natural background.