Sunscreens

by Randall Neustaedter OMD

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You are concerned about cumulative damage from sun exposure so you use a sunscreen, but what about those strange-sounding chemicals, are they safe? The answer is no. Most sunscreens contain a mixture of the following ingredients: oxybenzone, methoxycinnamate, PABA, benzophenone, and triethanolamine. These are toxic chemicals that are absorbed through your skin, and they can cause cancer. They have never been proven safe, and children may be especially susceptible to their harmful effects.

A better solution is to use the sunblocker zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. You can buy these in creams and rub-on sticks at health food stores.  For children I recommend using only sunscreens with zinc oxide because titanium dioxide has shown potential problems in cell cultures.

Wear a hat, wear UV protective sunglasses to prevent cataracts, and use sunscreens judiciously.

Get sun exposure during the summer months. The vitamin D derived from the interaction of ultraviolet light and your skin will protect you from osteoporosis, colon cancer, autoimmune disease, and skin cancer (including melanoma). It will promote bone growth in children and prevent immune system weakness. However, it is important to avoid sunburn that can damage your skin.

Here is Dr. Joseph Mercola’s recommended method of sun exposure:

“This does not mean that we should all go out and get as much sun as we want–you must exercise caution and avoiding a burn is key.

“At the beginning of the season, go out gradually and limit your exposure to perhaps as little as 10 minutes a day. Progressively increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks you will be able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer. You can further avoid the damage from the sun by staying out of the sun during the harmful times from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can stay in the shade during this time or wear lightweight long sleeve shirts, long pants and a wide-brim hat.”

If you are out in the hot sun on a tropical beach, if your child is playing baseball, tennis, or soccer in the hot sun, then avoid sunburn by using a sunscreen. Put sunscreen on kids’ faces and shoulders when they are spending an afternoon in the pool. Wear UV protection sunglasses to prevent cataracts.

For a detailed discussion of the controversies of vitamin D, sunlight, and cancer see http://cancerdecisions.com/052204.html

For Dr. Mercola’s reasoning behind throwing away your sunscreen see:

http://www.mercola.com/2004/may/26/summer_sun.htm

According to OSHA topical administration of zinc oxide to rabbits, mice, and guinea pigs failed to cause either skin irritation or signs of systemic toxicity.

ACGIH [1991]. Documentation of the threshold limit values and biological exposure indices. 6th ed. Cincinnati, OH: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

Titanium dioxide is not toxic according to the EPA:

Toxicological Profile

Titanium is the eighth most abundant element in the earth’s crust
and consequently spontaneously enters the food chain to some degree.
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a major constituent of a number of minerals,
including rutile, which consists of 95% titanium dioxide. The most
commercially important of the titanium compounds, titanium dioxide
annual worldwide production is estimated to be appoximately two million
metric tons. Titanium dioxide is an opaque powder that is approved for
use as a colorant in food (21 CFR 73.575), in drugs (21 CFR 73.1575),
and in cosmetics (21 CFR 73.2575; 21 CFR 73.3126). It has an extensive
range of industrial uses (e.g., paint, paper, and plastics). Titanium
dioxide is currently exempt from the requirement for a tolerance when
used as a colorant in pesticide formulations (40 CFR 180.1001(d)).
A National Cancer Institute bioassay concluded that titanium
dioxide did not affect mortality, and was not carcinogenic at dose
levels of 25,000 or 50,000 ppm in rats or mice.
The World Health Organization Committee on Food Coloring Materials
has determined that no ADI need be set for the use of titanium dioxide
based on the range of acute, subacute and chronic toxicity assays, all
showing low mammalian toxicity, including a two year chronic feeding
study in mice which was negative for carcinogenicity. Indeed, titanium
dioxide is frequently used as a negative control material in in vivo
chronic dust exposure studies and in in vivo assessments of fibrogenic
potential of dusts.

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