Cancer If You Do, Cancer If You Don’t—The Sunscreen Debate Continues.
First the Environmental Working Group released its annual sunscreen safety guide, then Consumer Reports published its buying guide and, finally, the blogosphere lit up with backlash over Jessica Alba’s Honest sunscreen. Sunscreen was a hot topic this summer, to say the least.
After coming across this sunscreen post while browsing my Facebook feed, I figured it was time to update the previous NewsMom blog “Are There Toxic Chemicals in Your Kids’ Sunscreen?”
Let me start by saying: I’m a reporter, not a scientist. I research and cite experts, but I am by no means an expert myself.
The Environmental Working Group is one of the trusted experts I have cited for years when reporting on sunscreen safety. EWG is a nonprofit dedicated to environmental health. It regularly commissions or conducts studies ranging from the effects of fracking to flame retardants to ingredients in your food to, yes, sunscreen.
I swear by their app for researching sunscreen ingredients because it provides easy access to information on just about every sunscreen ingredient.
However, the aforementioned Facebook article “The dangers of sunscreen – A dermatologist’s perspective” basically calls B.S. on the EWG.
Jackie Dosal, MD argues:
Sunscreen won’t cause hormonal disruption — it would take 200 years of application to even reach questionable levels of exposure.
Sunscreen won’t cause skin cancer — the use of sunscreen is directly correlated to the prevention of skin cancer. Retinyl palmitate is an anti-oxidant that occurs naturally in the skin.
Nanosize sunscreens are safe for use, as they clump in real life, preventing them from being absorbed.
I don’t doubt her findings, and I commend her message that using sunscreen is safer than not using it.
In fact, the EWG doesn’t suggest you avoid sunscreen, either. They simply provide information to allow you to make educated decisions about which sunscreens you choose.
As a consumer reporter, I’ve read (part of) several studies that indicate we really don’t know the long-term impact of the combined effect of chemicals.
From flame-retardants to pesticides to plastics to hormones in foods, our families are exposed to unavoidable chemicals every day. Individually, some of those chemicals have been studied. However, the combined impact of small doses of multiple chemicals is almost entirely unknown.
Even though exposure to a particular dose of a single chemical does not in itself constitute a risk of effects, there could be a risk if there is simultaneous exposure to other substances at the same time.
Dr. Dosal discounts the EWG’s warning to avoid oxybenzone because the lab rats that experienced “effects similar to estrogen … ATE sunscreen at megadoses.” Clearly that is significantly different than applying small does to the skin daily.
However, Dr. Dosal fails to mention the unknown affects of prolonged exposure to small doses of oxybenzone in addition to small doses of all the other hormones and chemicals our kids are exposed to on a daily basis.
Will it harm them? Will it increase their risk of cancer? I believe even Dr. Dosal would admit we simply don’t know because it hasn’t been tested.
The fact is that our kids are lab rats, and we are all scientists experimenting with the products they use each day. There is no way to avoid all of the potentially dangerous chemicals we expose them to, but we can make educated choices that allow us to limit some of the environmental factors.
Bottom line, everyone agrees you need to put sunscreen on your kids, and it needs to have ingredients that actually block UV rays.
It’s up to each individual parent to decide if avoiding certain potentially problematic ingredients is important to him or her.
If it is important to you, here are some resources to help you investigate the products you put on your kids’ skin.