What’s Really in Our Sunscreen? Human and Environmental Health Risks Prompt More Oversight

New research from the FDA has shown that 7 chemicals traditionally found in chemical (vs mineral) sunscreen enter the human bloodstream at levels that exceed safety thresholds. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the arm of the FDA which conducted the studies explained that just because an ingredient enters the bloodstream doesn’t mean it’s unsafe but in this case, further testing of sunscreen chemicals is urgently needed. 

The Study: As CNN explained, the FDA findings, published Tuesday in the journal JAMA, confirmed the results of a pilot study the agency published last year. That pilot study discovered four popular chemical sunscreen filters often used in commercial products — avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule — were absorbed from the skin into the bloodstream after a single day of use.

  • The new study reevaluated three of the original four (avobenzone, oxybenzone and octocrylene) and added three additional sunscreen chemicals — homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate.
  • All of these chemicals are part of a dozen that the FDA wants manufacturers to research before they can be considered GRASE or “generally regarded as safe and effective.”

Sunscreen Making the News: In 2019, several cities and regions banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate due to the damage these chemicals can cause coral reefs. As Consumer Reports explained, some of the ingredients in sunscreen may damage delicate coral reef systems as well. Up to 6,000 tons of sunscreen are estimated to wash into coral reefs around the globe each year. And as the National Park Service cautions, rather than being evenly distributed, much of that sunscreen is concentrated at popular diving, swimming, and snorkeling sites—such as national parks.

However, scientists have emphasized that in comparison to the threat climate change poses, sunscreen bans won’t mean much. 

Why This Matters: This most recent FDA study underscores the need for a more stringent regulatory process for personal care products. As of right now, we don’t know all the ways in which certain chemical ingredients are harming people and planet. At the same time, an industry-backed bill in the Florida Senate aims to prevent municipalities from enforcing their chemical sunscreen bans.  The “ban on bans” is the ensuing backlash from industry groups affected by phaseouts of chemicals and single-use plastic items….and we’re likely just witnessing the beginning of these disputes.

Up Next

PFAS in Protective Gear Put Firefighters at Risk of Cancer 

PFAS in Protective Gear Put Firefighters at Risk of Cancer 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has required PFAS, cancer-causing chemicals used in manufacturing, in firefighting gear for years despite cancer being the leading killer of firefighters. An extensive investigative two-part story by E&E News’ Ariel Wittenberg reveals not only the dangers of current equipment standards but the lengths the NFPA has gone to hide them.

Why This Matters: A study of 30,000 firefighters from 2010 to 2015 found that firefighters have an increased risk of many different cancers including: leukemia, malignant mesothelioma, bladder and prostate cancers, lung cancer, brain cancer, and digestive and oral cancers.

Continue Reading 451 words
WHO Nixes “Lab Created” COVID-19 Theory

WHO Nixes “Lab Created” COVID-19 Theory

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer World Health Organization expert Dr. Peter Ben Embarek revealed this week that the organization’s team of researchers have found two scenarios that could have transferred COVID-19 to humans. He acknowledges that COVID-19 could have been transmitted through frozen products at the Wuhan fish market, but the most likely scenario […]

Continue Reading 402 words
Allergy Season is Getting Longer, and Communities of Color Will Suffer the Most

Allergy Season is Getting Longer, and Communities of Color Will Suffer the Most

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer A new study published Monday has found that a second, sneezier plague is ramping up. Allergy seasons have increased in duration by an average of 20 days since 1990. Why? Rising temperatures and an abundance of atmospheric carbon are increasing the amount of pollen in the air, and researchers say the […]

Continue Reading 444 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.