The studies are in.
Environmental Working Group recommends only 144 of 1063 sunscreens tested
Leading brands were the worst offenders. Not one of market leader Coppertone’s 29 sunscreen products met the criteria for safety and effectiveness, with only one of 36 products from Banana Boat and Neutrogena, the second and third largest manufacturers, making the cut.
What’s more, the EWG probe revealed 47% of commercially available products as formulated with ingredients that may be unstable alone or in combination—“unstable” meaning they break down in the sun in a matter of minutes or hours, then let UV radiation through to the skin. Researchers also found an alarming number of ingredients that absorbed into the blood, were linked to toxic effects or allergic reactions, released skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, could disrupt hormone systems and/or showed the potential for buildup in the body or the environment.
Of the 144 brands recommended, most were lesser-known brands with zinc and titanium—the most effective radiation blockers. (Source)
Oxybenzone found in 97% of human subjects tested
No health-based standards have been established for “unsafe” levels of oxybenzone in the body. Although it’s a known endocrine disruptor, is one of the most powerful free radical generators and has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage, the exact type and extent of damage oxybenzone does to the human system has not yet been conclusively proven. While neglecting to mention the potential side effects, the study noted that [the chemical] “has not been associated with adverse health effects,” with researchers cautioning that “further study is needed...” (Source)
In short, there’s no official government pronouncement that it’s toxic. (The US Food and Drug Administration has delayed implementing final, mandatory sunscreen safety standards—at the request of industry lobbyists—since 1978.) Sound familiar? Like the standard smokescreen used by countless Big Pharma machines to obfuscate initial concerns raised about products that were eventually recalled due to health hazards. The strategy? Stall. Buy time to sell as many products as possible before they’re pulled when hard evidence does become available. (Then claim no one knew.)
Sunscreen manufacturers use oxybenzone because it’s a penetration enhancer, it boosts SPF and it’s transparent, but primarily because it’s cheap! From a consumer’s standpoint, however, studies on human volunteers revealed some individuals absorbing up to 9% of the amount applied. (Volunteers continued to excrete oxybenzone many days after the last application of the chemical, indicating its tendency to accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues.) The question for sunscreen users becomes, do they want to keep using their bodies as oxybenzone banks until the hard evidence is in?
Researchers advise consumers to continue chemical sunscreen use despite dangers
Even more disturbing than these findings were the researchers’ conclusions. Given the potential danger of chemical-laden sunscreens, you’d think they’d advise caution at the very least—but no. Since the damage occurred only when ultraviolet light reached sunscreen agents that had penetrated the skin, the solution, they said, was to keep applying sunscreen to block out the UV rays.