Sunscreen Dangers: Some Don't Protect Well
Environmental Working Group has cataloged and analyzed hundreds of sunscreens in their Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. They have just released a sunscreen protection report detailing their conclusions from many years of testing the products and reviewing the available scientific literature, and in the report they say that four out of five sunscreen products don’t meet their standards for safety and effectiveness (a claim disputed by the major companies). The report doesn’t look pretty, but I will add a caveat that the concerns they have are speculative and based on their interpretation of available evidence and not completely on definitive knowledge. That being said, sunscreens fall into the same category of concern that I gave to bugspray, antibacterial soap, and baby bottles; that is to say that I’m willing to take precautions based on informed speculation if it means my kids will potentially be healthier.
Imagine my surprise discovering that my family’s Coppertone Continuous Spray Sunscreen is not completely effective and possibly hazardous to our health. According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), I am spraying ingredients on my children that are cancerous, toxic to reproduction and development, immunotoxic, neurotoxic, and organ system toxic. Sweet.
EWG tested 952 sunscreen products and only 15% met their criteria for safety and effectiveness. Among the worst of the troublemakers were everybody’s favorite brands: coppertone, banana boat, and neutrogena. You might be wondering how these companies are getting away with selling unhealthy toxins that don’t work very well. Good question. According to EWG, the FDA has been drafting sunscreen safety standards for 30 years, but has yet to enforce any of their suggestions for voluntary standards. Without mandatory standards, the companies are having a field day making claims that they don’t have to prove, and many of the claims that they do make are apparently fraudulent. This gives these companies a shield to hide behind, to say that they are complying with the FDA.
The majority of sunscreens go wrong because they don’t offer the full spectrum of UV protection. There are two types of ultra violet sun radiation called UVA and UVB. Most sunscreens prevent sunburns by blocking UVB radiation, but they don’t do a good job blocking the UVA rays that likely cause wrinkles and skin cancer.