CDC Finds 97 Percent of Americans Contaminated by SunscreensThe Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a new study showing that nearly all Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone, a widely-used sunscreen ingredient. This chemical so far has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage, as well as low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin. So where has the FDA been on this?
Apparently in the back pocket of the sunscrene industry. The Food and Drug Administration, again, has failed in its duty to protect the public from toxic chemicals like oxybenzone. Caving to the industry lobbyists, the agency has delayed final sunscreen safety standards for nearly 30 years. FDA issued a new draft of the standards last October under pressure from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), but continues to delay finalizing them because of pressure from the industry.
In their online cosmetic safety database, EWG identifies nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. that contain oxybenzone, including leading brand names like Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat, and many facial moisturizers as well. On top of that, they also show many of these so-called sunscreens offer inadequate protection from the sun. In fact, they found that sunlight also causes oxybenzone to form free radical chemicals that may be linked to cell damage, which is the exact opposite reason many women mistakenly use the sunscreen - to protect them from damaging free radicals which lead to premature aging.
And interestingly, as sunscreen sales have risen, so has the rate of skin cancers. Go figure. We've been pressured to believe that the sun is our enemy and we need to slather on loads of sunscreen to protect ourselves, when in actuality we need sunlight for our bodies to manufacture vitamin D. For those of us who are either fair skinned or just plain vain and worry about age spots and wrinkles, limiting our unprotected sun exposure to 20 minutes a day is adequate for our daily dose of vitamin D. For more fun in the sun, overexposure can be avoided by using a natural or organic sunscreen with a reflective barrier like zinc, instead of chemical sunscreens. Even a small amount of shea butter rubbed into the skin daily offers a bit of natural UV protection. Whatever you do, don't wait for the FDA to help you in your choice. Based on their history in this category, it could be another 30 years before safety standards are improved.
1. Environmental Health Perspectives: Concentrations of the Sunscreen Agent, Benzophenone-3, in Residents of the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2004
2. Environmental Working Group: Comments from EWG on the U.S. FDA's Proposed Amendment of Final Monograph for Sunscreens
3. Environmental Working Group: Americans Carry 'Body Burden' of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical