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Evidence Is Mounting That Sunscreen
Is Dangerous For Your Health

In a new investigation of 785 name-brand sunscreens, an Environmental Working Group (EWG) found widespread evidence that many products on the market are not safe and effective, including one of every eight high-SPF sunscreens that does not protect from UVA radiation. They have also identified 130 products that offer very good sun protection with ingredients that present minimal health risks to users. Full list of best and worst.

More people than ever are using sunscreen to protect from sunburn and guard against skin cancer. Top choices include products with high SPF ratings, and that are waterproof or that advertise "broad spectrum" protection. Most people trust that the claims on the bottle will ensure that the product truly protects their health and their families'. Nothing could be less certain.

  • Comprehensive scientific reviews indicate that 83% of 785 sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients with significant safety concerns. Only 17% of the products on the market are both safe and effective, blocking both UVA and UVB radiation, remaining stable in sunlight, and containing few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards. The assessment is based on a review of nearly 400 scientific studies, industry models of sunscreen efficacy, and toxicity and regulatory information housed in nearly 60 government, academic, and industry databases.
  • Many products lack UVA protection. Fully 12% of high SPF sunscreens (SPF of at least 30) protect only from sunburn (UVB radiation), and do not contain ingredients known to protect from UVA radiation, the sun rays linked to skin damage and aging, immune system problems, and potentially skin cancer. FDA does not require that sunscreens guard against UVA radiation.
  • Sunscreens break down in the sun. Parodoxically, many sunscreen ingredients break down in the sun, in a matter of minutes or hours, and then let UV radiation through to the skin. Our analyses show that 54% of products on the market contain ingredients that may be unstable alone or in combination, raising questions about whether these products last as long as the label says. FDA has not proposed requirements for sunscreen stability.
  • COMMON MISLEADING CLAIMS

  • Questionable product claims are widespread. At least 50% of products on the market bear claims that are considered "unacceptable" or misleading under sunscreen safety standards. An analysis of marketing claims on hundreds of sunscreen bottles shows that false and misleading marketing claims are common. Claims like "all day protection," "mild as water," and "blocks all harmful rays" are not true, yet are found on bottles.
  • Many sunscreens contain nano-scale ingredients that raise potential concerns. Micronized and nano-scale zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen provide strong UVA protection, and are contained in many top-rated products. Repeated studies have found that these ingredients do not penetrate healthy skin, indicating that consumers' exposures would be minimal. Studies on other nano-scale materials have raised concerns about their unique, toxic properties. F
  • Some sunscreens absorb into the blood and raise safety concerns. A review of the technical literature shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some are linked to toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and could disrupt hormone systems, several are strongly linked to allergic reactions, and still others may build up in the body or the environment. .

After decades of debate, several governments have failed to set mandatory sunscreen safety standards. Companies are free to make their own decisions on everything from advertising claims to product quality. The underlying message is that sunscreen applications are presently carrying risks that far outweigh any benefit to the public.


Reference Source 153
July 20, 2007

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