Safe and Effective Sunscreens 2010

Last year’s post on Safe and Effective Sunscreens is one of the most popular on this site. It highlights the results of the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen study. My goal was to look through their recommended options to find the most readily available and inexpensive sunscreens. EWG has just come out with their newest sunscreen study for 2010. Sadly, only 8% of all sunscreens tested made it onto the approved list and they are all expensive.

There are several reasons why only 8% made the cut this year. One is a concern about the safety of Vitamin A in sunscreen products and the possibility that it actually increases our risk of skin cancer. Another reason relates to the effectiveness of sunscreens. EWG has found that effectiveness claims are rarely as they appear. It’s entirely possible that the sunscreen you’ve been using doesn’t have the protection you think it does. Read the full study yourself for all the details.

EWG has also created a helpful tool that allows you to input your sunscreen and then receive feedback about its ratings. You can try out the tool below.

A note about naysayers: Every year after the release of EWG’s sunscreen study, the internet is abubble with claims that EWG’s report is in error, that poorly rated sunscreens really do work, aren’t dangerous, etc. If you check the sources of these claims however, they almost always come from the sunscreen industry — either companies who manufacture the very sunscreens that were rated poorly or other businesses that have a vested interest in certain sunscreen products performing well in the market. As such, I tend not to trust these arguments. I will say that I am not a scientist and I am unable to break down EWG’s study to find gaps. I do believe, however, that the sunscreens they recommend are safe. While they are also expensive, I’m willing to err on the side of caution here. The primary method suggested by EWG for reducing harmful sun exposure is to cover up. Wear UV protective clothing, wear hats, stay out of the sun during peak daytime hours if you can.

10 Safe and Effective Sunscreens From EWG’s 2010 Study

You can view the full list here.

1. California Baby SPF 30 + Sunscreen Lotion 2.9 oz – $17.99 ($6.20/ounce)

2. California Baby SPF 30 + Sunblock Stick – No Fragrance, .5 oz – Pack of 2 for $25.98 ($25.98/ounce)

3. Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+, 5.3-Ounce Tube – $24.50 ($4.62/ounce)

4. All Terrain AquaSport Performance Sunblock, SPF 15, 3-Ounces – Pack of 2 for $20.28 ($3.38/ounce)

5. Badger Sunscreen for Face & Body SPF 30 2.9 oz – $15.99 ($5.51/ounce)

6. Jason Natural Products Sunbrellas Chemical Free Sun Block 4 oz. – $11.21 ($2.80/ounce)

7. JASON NATURAL PRODUCTS, Earth’s Best Baby Care Chemical Free Sun Block SPF30+ – 4 oz – $13.58 ($3.39/ounce) [This is the one we use for our kids]

8. Loving Naturals Organic SPF 30 Sunscreen Zinc Oxide 4 Oz. UVA/UVB Vegan – $19.75 ($4.93/ounce)

9. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 Suncreen Cream UVA Protection with Mexoryl SX, 1.7-Ounce Tube – $25.98 ($15.28/ounce)  [I use this one for my face]

10. Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm SPF 15 3.5 oz. – $27.90 ($7.97/ounce)

EWG has also created a Hall of Shame that lists 8 popular sunscreens and explains the problems with them. Be sure to check out that list.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If so, please spread the word by sharing with the people you know.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet

Why I Created Smart Green Tips

Healthy Child, Healthy World was one of the places I first began learning about the chemicals that have invaded our homes and our bodies. They have a new video; it’s 3 minutes long. Please watch it.

This is why I started this blog:

If you’re reading this post in an email or RSS reader, you’ll need to click over to the site to view the video.

Good Stuff

I’ve come across several good things I’d like to tell you about.

1. Diane MacEachern wrote about green dry cleaning this week. Her post is incredibly informative. She’s also provided a link to a database where you can locate the greenest dry cleaners in your area.

2. Colin Beavan, aka, No Impact Man has a great project going. He’s encouraging everyone to try a one week carbon cleanse and has put together a terrific day-by-day tutorial to help. Even if you don’t do everything he suggests, there are some helpful ideas included in his guide.

3. Check the list of 7 Foods the Experts Won’t Eat. It may surprise you.

4. I found Sprout Launch this week. They offer daily acts of kindness to keep you full of ideas. Follow them on Twitter, or check out their site.

Have a great week, everyone!

80,000 Chemicals in Everyday Products, But Who’s Counting (No One)

Janelle Sorensen was kind enough to give me permission to reprint this article she wrote for Healthy Child, Healthy World. I found the contents of this post too important to simply summarize.

I’ve read over and over about the 80,000 chemicals in everyday products (most of which have only been in use since World War II). It’s a stunning figure used as an attention getter when people discuss health issues linked to certain toxic chemicals. Some sources put it higher and some put it lower. Some say they’re all in use and some say they’re just “registered.” I did some research and what I found is that no one really knows.

It turns out that more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals are indeed simply registered for use today with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). How many of these are actively used is hotly debated. In fact, the EPA cannot even nail it down—they estimate anywhere from 9,000-15,000. And, roughly 3,000 qualify as “high production volume” (HPV) – meaning more than a million pounds of each one are produced in or imported into the United States every year.

Given that we don’t even know how many of the 80,000 chemicals registered for use are actually being used, it should come as no surprise that no one knows the amount of total chemical production in the U.S. The only guess we have is an estimate based on the roughly 3,000 HPV chemicals – 4.4 to 7.1 trillion pounds of these chemicals are produced/imported annually.

Did that confuse you? It’s because we don’t keep track of all chemicals, only those that are produced or imported at more than a million pounds per year (anything less than a million pounds is apparently insignificant – I guess it just became too much trouble to keep track of everything). And given the almost 3 trillion pound spread between the HPV chemical estimates, we don’t even really keep track of those.

Try to visualize this massive quantity of chemicals. For illustrative purposes, let’s go with the average of the two aforementioned numbers, 5.75 trillion or, 5,750,000,000,000 pounds. These days we throw around numbers like million and billion and trillion without a second thought. But, consider the staggering size of this number. If you had your own little chemical lab and you created one pound of chemicals every second, it would take you over 180,000 years to get to 5.75 trillion. The US produces and imports this much every year (and that number continues to grow).

Now, allow me to shed some light on the true spectacle of ignorance.

No basic toxicity information is publicly available for 43 percent of the HPV chemicals and full information on toxicity is publicly available for only 7 percent.

Allow me to reiterate because it’s so mind boggling: Almost half of the chemicals that we are using in difficult to imagine amounts, almost half, have NO testing data at all on basic toxicity???? And, only SEVEN PERCENT have a full set of BASIC test data???

In addition, the toxicity information we have is a chemical-by-chemical assessment. Well enough on paper, but we are not exposed to chemicals one-by-one. We are exposed to chemicals in a soup-like fashion and every one of us has our own individual recipe. Given the enormous mixtures we are exposed to daily, there is no credible, scientific way to test for health impacts and we keep adding more ingredients (2,000-3,000 a year to be kind of exact).

International authorities agree that six basic tests are necessary for a minimum understanding of a chemical’s toxicity. For each chemical, the basic set of tests costs about $205,000. It would cost the chemical industry less than $427 million to fill all of the basic screening set data gaps for the high production volume chemicals. $427 million sounds like a lot of money to you and I, and the chemical industry says it’s completely unfeasible to consider doing all of these tests; it costs too much; it would paralyze them and stunt progress. But, consider this – $427 million only represents 0.2% of the total annual sales of the top 100 U.S. chemical companies. It is a drop in the bucket to them and; thus, utterly outrageous that the tests have not been performed.

So there you have it. Our modern society relies on thousands of chemicals, but we don’t know how many, or how much, or how they interact with each other or how they impact ecosystems or human health and development. It is an unbelievable, unrestrained, global experiment. It’s so huge it’s hard to wrap your head around it. So, maybe don’t try. What you should try to do is reduce your exposure by buying less stuff and looking for more natural choices (like using baking soda and vinegar to clean). You can also help strengthen the regulatory system that’s allowed this experiment to continue virtually unfettered for so many years by supporting the Kid Safe Chemicals Act.

[Beth’s note: The above article was reprinted with permission. To see the original post, please visit Healthy Child, Healthy World.]

Autism and Environmental Factors

hc-logoHealthy Child, Healthy World, one of my favorite sites for child safety information, received permission to reprint an article highlighting the results of a study conducted by University of California scientists. Their conclusion: the exponential increase in Autism rates “cannot be explained by changes in doctors’ diagnoses and most likely is due to environmental exposures.” It’s an interesting and important read. You can find the article, titled, Autism: It’s the Environment, Not Just Doctors Diagnosing More Disease by clicking the link.