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With Summer just around the corner, it is time to start applying sun screen on a daily basis. By now, we all know the benefits of making sunscreen a daily routine. But, there is some new information you should know when comparing different sunscreen products.
A new study was released this month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A), and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). In their report, researchers presented concerning findings when testing four commercially available sunscreens on the U.S. market, and found they might not be totally safe. The study found that our bodies could be absorbing more of the biologically active ingredients in sunscreen than previously thought. These chemicals can enter our blood, urine, and even breast milk, and there has been little research on the future consequences these substances can pose to our health with prolonged use.
Earlier this year, the F.D.A. released new guidelines for over-the-counter sunscreen manufacturers requiring any active ingredients that are absorbed into the bloodstream with concentrations higher than 0.5 ng/ml to undergo toxicology testing. These tests are supposed to look for risks of cancer, reproductive issues, and other hormonal mutations. According to the FDA study, out four of the active chemicals in sunscreen exceeded the levels needed for toxicology testing after only one day of use- some over four hundred times the amount!
When national studies are released on products you buy all the time, it’s normal for consumers to become concerned or get confused. Here is what Marylanders should know about the new study, and how it will affect the type of sunscreen products you purchase for your families this summer.
Sunscreen has been around since the late 1920s, booming in popularity as skin cancer awareness has broadened. As more and more sunscreen products hit the market every year, a trend of using harmful chemicals and neglecting the responsibility of researching the safety of these products has somehow slipped through the cracks. According to an article by the F.D.A., past researchers have found little need to study the effects of sunscreen absorption. Since sunscreen is meant to sit on top of the skin as a barrier, the common belief was that the risk of high concentrations of sunscreen chemicals entering the bloodstream was minimal.
After releasing new guidelines for sunscreen toxicology testing this February, F.D.A. researchers performed a randomized clinical trial to find out how much of active ingredients in sunscreen are being absorbing during daily applications. Using 24 healthy volunteers, the team assigned each participant to use one sunscreen to apply four times a day, for four days. Two of the participants were given a spray sunscreen, one a cream and one a lotion that they were instructed to apply to over 75 percent of their skin on the four day schedule before blood samples were taken to test for four active ingredients commonly found in sunscreens and not extensively studied: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule.
The study concluded that all of the active ingredients were detected in blood concentrations exceeding the F.D.A.’s recommendation for toxicology testing. While the blood detection level for all the four chemicals averaged 4.0 ng/ml, Oxybenzone was found in concentrations as high as 209.6 ng/ml. These levels were higher with spray sunscreens vs. lotions.
Because there has been little testing on the long-term effects of these active ingredients, it’s unclear how much and what type of damage they could cause to consumers when used at these maximal suggested amounts. According to WebMD and Women’s Health, some of the possible concerns linked to these ingredients include:
Oxybenzone is one of the ingredients health officials are worried about the most. According to the Environmental Working Group (E.W.G.), this substance is detected in nearly every American and could cause hormone disruption, altered birth weights, skin allergies, and even alter cells to cause tumors and skin cancer- precisely the condition sunscreen wearers are trying to prevent.
The health risks that may be associated with the active ingredients tested in the FDA study are good to know, but they are still uproven. However, there is no question that the chance of getting skin cancer or painful burns from exposure to the sun is higher without protection. Not all sunscreens are created alike, and plenty on the market have ingredients that are safer to use than others.
According to the E.W.G., here are the little known facts about sunscreen consumers should be aware of when picking out a sunscreen this season:
You don’t have to be afraid to go outside. Do your research. Educate yourself on the products you purchase to make sure you are using those that are best for your health and safety. And, for more information on sunscreen safety, check out E.W.G.’s sunscreen guide here.
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