Green group makes big claim over tiny matter
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Green group makes big claim over tiny matter

THE shares of sunscreen ingredient manufacturer Antaria, which is facing a Friends of the Earth campaign, have slid after the company revealed a director had resigned and revenue had declined by 17 per cent.

Friday's 9 per cent share-price decline follows complaints by the Friends of the Earth to the securities and competition regulators about Antaria's market disclosure and whether it is wrongly labelling its flagship technology ''nano-free''.

The green group said there were concerns about whether nanotechnology in sunscreen increased the risk of skin cancer among users.

But Antaria insisted its ZinClear-IM technology - a zinc oxide product used in dozens of sunscreens, including Cancer Council and Invisible Zinc-branded ones - was non-nano, and said it could not be held responsible for any changes to its product made by customers.

''If you stick 40 herbs and spices on it and it's no longer organic, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the chicken,'' chairman Rade Dudurovic told BusinessDay.

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Antaria, which is capitalised at $5.9 million, last week announced that Dr Deborah Cooper had resigned from its board. It also reported a smaller loss for the year to June 2012, of $1.9 million, from $2.18 million the year before.

About 80 per cent of its $4.43 million in revenue comes from overseas, namely Asia, the US and Europe. It is Europe that is in Friends of the Earth's sights: it complained to the ASX that Antaria had erred by not informing the market that the region's organic certification body, Ecocert, had revoked certification for ZinClear-IM last month.

Ecocert - which plans to ban nano-particles in certified cosmetic products in 2013, on precautionary grounds - told BusinessDay that it pulled certification on August 6, after failing to receive requested information from Antaria.

In Australia, the National Measurement Institute, which is within the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Research and which measures nanoparticles, said its study of a patent issued to Antaria fit the Australian definition of ''nanomaterial''. ''NMI does not suggest that any commercially available sunscreens are unsafe, whether or not they contain nanomaterial. Neither does NMI suggest that manufacturers are mislabelling their products,'' the institute said.

The ASX said last week it had received a letter of complaint regarding Antaria and it was ''taking the matter seriously and will respond appropriately''.

Antaria's largest shareholders are property developer Lev Mizikovsky and the University of Western Australia.