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Are Sunscreens Safe?

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Tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group found that most sunscreens provide inadequate protection against the sun's harmful rays and may also contain unsafe chemicals. Fortunately, there are safer and more effective sunscreens now on the market, mostly available at natural foods markets.

Dear EarthTalk: Are sunscreens safe? Which ones do you recommend that will protect my skin from the sun and not cause other issues?

-- Bettina E., New York, NY

Getting a little sunshine is important for helping our bodies generate Vitamin D, an important supplement for strong bones, and for regulating our levels of serotonin and tryptamine, neurotransmitters that keep our moods and sleep/wake cycles in order. Like anything, though, too much sun can cause health issues, from sunburns to skin cancer. For those of us spend more time in the sun than doctors recommend—they say to stay indoors between 11 AM and 3 PM on sunny days to be safe—sunscreens can be lifesavers.

Getting too much sun is bad because of ultraviolet radiation, 90 percent of which comes in the form of Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays that are not absorbed by the ozone layer and penetrate deep into our skin. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays make up the rest. These rays are partially absorbed by the ozone layer (which makes preserving the ozone layer crucial for our health), and because they don't penetrate our skin as deeply, can cause those lobster-red sunburns. Both types of UV rays are thought to cause skin cancer.

Yet while most sunscreens block out at least some UVB radiation, many don't screen UVA rays at all, making their use risky. According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), by far most of the commercially available sunscreens do not provide adequate protection against the sun's harmful UV radiation and may also contain chemicals with questionable safety records.

In all, 84 percent of the 831 sunscreens EWG tested did not pass health and environmental muster. Many contained potentially harmful chemicals like Benzophenone, homosalate and octyl methoxycinnamate (also called octinoxate), which are known to mimic naturally occurring bodily hormones and can thus throw the body's systems out of whack. Some also contained Padimate-0 and parsol 1789 (also known as avobenzone), which are suspected of causing DNA damage when exposed to sunlight. Furthermore, EWG found that more than half the sunscreens on the market make questionable product claims about longevity, water resistance and UV protection.

As a result, EWG has called on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to establish standards for labeling so consumers have a better idea of what they may be buying. In the meantime, consumers looking to find out how their preferred brand stacks up can check out EWG's online Skin Deep database, which compares thousands of health and beauty products against environmental and human health standards.

The good news is that many companies are now introducing safer sunscreens crafted from plant- and mineral-based ingredients and without chemical additives. Some of the best, according to Skin Deep, are Alba Botanica Sun's Fragrance-Free Mineral Sunscreen, Avalon Baby's Sunscreen SPF 18, Badger's SPF 30 Sunscreen, Burt's Bees' Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 15, California Baby's SPF 30, Juice Beauty's Green Apple SPF 15 Moisturizer, and Kabana's Green Screen SPF 15. Natural foods markets stock many of these, or they can be found online at websites like Sun Protection Center and Drugstore.com.

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=are-sunscreens-safe

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I read recently that women are more likely to get skin cancer because they are more likely to use sun screen and assume they are protected so they stay in the sun for longer periods of time. That math would suggest that the screens do not work as effectively as limiting direct sun exposure.


Refusing to use the spellchick!

I have put you on ignore. No really, I have, but you are still ruining my enjoyment of this site. .

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I'm not for the animal testing of them one bit.


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Moreover are sunglasses safe? You should always be careful what you buy... bad sunglasses are worse than none at all...

Really? That sounds like some Rayban exec talking...

No you can buy cheap sunglasses that don't have proper UV protection (a possibility if you buy them on holiday overseas for example where there are different manufacturing standards).

Basically what happens is that the shade makes your pupils dilate to let in more light. If the glasses don't have sufficient UV protection to screen out the rays - the radiation goes straight into your eyes.

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Moreover are sunglasses safe? You should always be careful what you buy... bad sunglasses are worse than none at all...

Really? That sounds like some Rayban exec talking...

:o me too...I usually buy a cheap $10 pair at Target because I end up breaking them or losing them. They have a sticker that says they block out 100 percent UV's. I hope that's accurate. :(

Edited by Jabberwocky

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Moreover are sunglasses safe? You should always be careful what you buy... bad sunglasses are worse than none at all...

Really? That sounds like some Rayban exec talking...

:o me too...I usually buy a cheap $10 pair at Target because I end up breaking them or losing them. They have a sticker that says they block out 100 percent UV's. I hope that's accurate. :(

I'm sure it is - the US probably has a mandatory safety standard for that (though costume sunglasses sometimes don't fit into that description).

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I'm not for the animal testing of them one bit.

I also disagree with testing sunglasses on animals!

:hehe:


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I'm not for the animal testing of them one bit.

I also disagree with testing sunglasses on animals!

http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/x3800748694.pdf

The Environmental Working Group

Peddlers of Fear

Junk Science Specialists Foment Public Health Scares

Summary: The Environmental Working

Group specializes in using unsound science

to foment health scares about various

foods, pesticides and other products.

...

“This omission,” she pointed out, “is

consistent with the fact that the EWG

president once conceded to the Weekly

Standard that the Environmental Working

Group does not have a single doctor or

scientist on staff.”

...

By now, the EWG modus operandi is

predictable. The group releases a “study,”

which concludes that exposure to an everyday

item—baby food, cosmetics,

mother’s milk, tap water, fruit and vegetables—

poses a risk to human health.

The study then follows the model that the

NRDC and Fenton Communications developed

for the 1989 Alar scare: EWG “findings” typically show that children are most

at risk by exposure to the substance in

question. The study is then released at a

press conference, often arranged by

Fenton Communications, with all the trappings

of a major scientific breakthrough.

The truth is far different. In fact, EWG

avoids conducting peer-reviewed studies,

the kind published in scientific periodicals

such as Nature, Science or the

New England Journal of Medicine. Instead,

as Tom and Gretchen Randall note

in the December 2003 Foundation Watch,

EWG studies “are associative in nature,

rather than causal.” “Causal studies, which

are used in clinical medical research,” they

point out, “demonstrate the degree to

which a particular pathogen or other agent

affects people. Associative studies simply

indicate a correlation. If activists were

to use associative research and the precautionary

principle together, they might well prohibit the use of beds, since most

people who die were lying in them.”

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