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Two-Thirds of Sunscreen Products Offer Poor Protection or Have Worrisome Ingredients
Tuesday, just ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the Environmental Working Group released its 12th annual Guide to Sunscreens, rating the safety and efficacy of more than 1,000 sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms that advertise sun protection. EWG researchers found that 67 percent of the products don't work well or contain ingredients that could harm health.
"The majority of sunscreens available in the U.S. aren't as good as most consumers think they are," said EWG Senior Research Analyst Sonya Lunder.
Most sunscreens on the market contain hormone-disrupting ingredients, like oxybenzone, which Hawaii lawmakers recently moved to ban due to its role in coral bleaching and coral death. Hawaii Gov. David Yutaka Ige has yet to sign the bill into law.
Research shows that oxybenzone is an allergen that soaks through skin and can be detected in the bodies of nearly every American. It is also a hormone disruptor. Despite the 2014 Sunscreen Innovation Act, the Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved any new sunscreen ingredients in a decade.
Oxybenzone is found in the majority of products on the market, including nearly all sunscreens advertising an SPF value greater than 50. EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews said high SPF numbers are a marketing gimmick that could lead to overexposure.
"SPF values of 75, 80, or 100 lull Americans into thinking their skin is fully protected from the sun's harmful rays for extended periods of time," said Andrews. "People tend to misuse these high SPF products, spending more time in the sun without reapplying, putting them and their families at greater risk of UV damage."
Sunscreen products are capped at SPF 50 in Europe and Japan, and 50+ in Canada and Australia. Capping SPF claims is one important way the FDA could improve consumer protection in the U.S., because sunscreen companies continue to flood the market with higher SPF products that offer inadequate UVA protection and leave consumers vulnerable to sun damage.
A poor quality sunscreen may prevent sunburn, but won't shield skin from harmful ultraviolet A rays that cause skin aging and possibly melanoma. EWG estimates that half of all sunscreens on the U.S. market would not pass the more stringent European ingredient standards, which require stronger UVA protection.
"Americans deserve sunscreens that effectively filter harmful ultraviolet rays but don't contain toxic chemicals," said Carla Burns, a research analyst at EWG. "A few blistering sunburns during childhood can double a person's risk of developing skin cancer as an adult."
This year's easy-to-use Guide to Sunscreens includes a list of the best-rated sunscreens for kids.
EWG's guide helps consumers find products that get high ratings for providing broad-spectrum protection and that are made with ingredients that pose fewer health concerns.
Sunscreen is only one item in the sun safety toolbox. People should also protect their skin by wearing clothes, hats and sunglasses, and staying in the shade. But wearing sunscreen is still important.
"People are now more sun-aware and more concerned about protection," said Burns. "A good SPF product is one you're going to use every day and reapply at least every two hours."
Here are some tips for choosing better sunscreens and keeping children safe in the sun:
- Avoid products with oxybenzone. This chemical penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and block the male sex hormone androgen.
- Stay away from sunscreens with SPF values higher than 50+. High SPF values do not provide increased UVA protection and may fool you into thinking you're safe from sun damage.
- Avoid sprays. These popular products don't provide a thick and uniform coating on skin. They also pose inhalation concerns.
- Cover up with clothing, hats and sunglasses.
- Avoid intense sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.