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How Safe is Your Sunscreen? 1500 Sunscreens Ranked for Safety, Effectiveness

Posted Jul 02 2009 5:57pm

With summer now in full swing, our kid’s exposure to the sun is at its highest, and the stores are full of many different products purporting to protect children from sun damage. But how can you be sure that the sunscreen that you choose is actually effective without being harmful to them? The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new sunscreen rankings can help you decide.

EWG has been campaigning for effective sunscreens for years, and investigating and ranking the thousands of sun blocks and sunscreens being sold to consumers. Their findings are quite an eye-opener if you’ve never looked closely at the ingredients of the lotions and potions we put on our kids’ skin.

“A new EWG investigation of 1,572 sunscreens and other sun-blocking products currently on the market found that 3 of 5 sunscreens either don’t protect skin from sun damage or contain hazardous chemicals — or both.”

Three out of five? That’s not good.

Some good has come out of EWG’s campaign, such as the fact that this year, 70% of sunscreens are formulated with strong UVA filters (compared to 29% last year), and almost 20% fewer sun block products contain a hormone disrupting ingredient called oxybenzene.

However, because there is no meaningful federal standards for sunscreens from the FDA, some claims from manufacturers are not entirely truthful. For example, EWG found that many brands that claim to have UVA filters in their products contain too little to have strong protection against UVA radiation (linked to cancer and premature aging).

“The FDA may not care about the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen products, but the public does.” - Jane Houlihan, EWG VP of research

EWG’s 2009 Sunscreen Guide is probably the most comprehensive resource for families to identify the safest and most effective sun blocks, moisturizers, and lip balms, making it a lot easier to wade through the enormous volume of brands and product claims to find the best choice for sun protection.

Go look up your family’s sunscreen now, or download EWG’s Shoppers Guide to Sunscreens (PDF).

Image: Graham and Sheila at Flickr under CC License

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