It’s here! Summer — the long awaited time of year when kids get a reprieve from the pressures of school, the structured environment that can heighten their sense of being different, of needing to fight their bodies and minds to fit in.
Unfortunately, summer also brings a different set of health concerns for parents. Among them is the choice of sunscreens. Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list of sunscreens which it considers the best and worst of the lot. This year’s list brings some good news: 25% of the products EWG reviewed received recommendations, compared to 20% in the previous year and only 8% deemed acceptable in 2010. So progress is being made and corporations are responding to heighten consumer awareness and pressure to produce safer products. The bad news of course is that a full 75% of the stuff out there still needs to be kept out of your beach bag.
View the EWG Guide to Sunscreen, which is a helpful guide that empowers you to make better choices. However, pay attention to the criteria being used to award or deduct points. For example, EWG reasons that a high SPF lulls consumers into a false sense of security against both UVA and UVB exposure while in reality, it does not provide extra protection against UVA. But if you’re someone who re-applies sunscreen faithfully regardless of SPF value, then the points EWG deducts from a high SPF may not be a valid measurement for you. While the guide does a lot of homework for you, you may still come to different conclusions on certain products, placing higher or lower values on certain criteria.
In addition to EWG’s information on sunscreen products, you should also be aware of a recent news release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding a preliminary study that links benzophenone-type UV filters – sometimes found in sunscreens, moisturizers and lotions – with a possible link to endometriosis. Benzophenone-type UV filters mimic the effects of estrogen and may play a role in estrogen-related health issues. The full news release can be read here.
Now, it’s important to remember that while the chemicals in sunscreens may carry risks, so does prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB rays. A good overview of these risks is offered by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
As with everything, it’s about finding balance. The best protection you can offer your family is to be educated so that you can make the most informed decision possible; finding balance between the joys of being a kid soaking in the days of summer against the need to protect the health we all fight for so fiercely the rest of the year. Take educated risks but also remember to make the kinds of memories that make life worth living.