Sun Smart

Sun Screens Still Fall Short on Safety




The nonprofit Environmental Working Group has reported some success in its campaign to improve sunscreens. As of last year, 70 percent of sunscreens contained strong UVA filters, compared with 29 percent the year before, and 19 percent fewer sunscreens contained oxybenzone, which government data has linked to hormone disruption. Still, EWG scientists can recommend only 39 of 500 beach and sport sunscreens on the market this summer. That’s just 8 percent that earn a green light both for protecting skin against sun damage and excluding hazardous chemicals in favor of UV-blocking minerals, with zinc a better choice than titanium.

A new problem is that one in six sunscreens promotes exaggerated SPF claims of greater than 50, which may give a false sense of protection and encourage overexposure to direct sunlight. Another is the presence of a vitamin A compound named retinyl palmitate, found in 41 percent of sunscreens and linked to growth of skin tumors and lesions.

“Many sunscreens available in the United States may be the equivalent of modern-day snake oil,” concludes Jane Houlihan, EWG’s senior vice president for research. EWG continues to recommend that people resort to hats, clothing and shade for primary protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Look up ratings for sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms at www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen.

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