We all know that we need to be careful when we are out in the sun for any substantial period of time. Too much exposure to direct sun (UV light) has been linked to increased rates of skin cancer.
But many sunscreens contain the active ingredient titanium oxide. One problem is that dioxin, a carcinogenic agent linked to increases in breast cancer, is released during its production. Small amounts of dioxin are often found in sunscreen products.
Many sunscreens also contain chemicals that mimic estrogen, the female hormone. Theses endocrine disrupting chemicals are accumulating in both human and wildlife tissues, as we apply more and more sunscreen to our bodies and then often wash it off into the waters in which we swim. Examples of chemicals with estrogen-like activity that have been shown to increase rates of breast cell growth and proliferation in laboratory studies, an which are found in common sunsreens include:
- 3-(4-methyl benzylidene)-camphor (4-MBC)
- octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC)
Like many other environmental chemicals that may affect health, the chemicals in sunscreens may have multiple effects. For example, application of sunscreens to the skin may increase the penetration of endocrine-disrupting herbicides into our bodies.
For safer alternatives to sunscreens that contain these chemicals, go to the Environmental Working Group's SkinDeep database, or get a quick look at these 21 natural sunscreens free of PABA, parabens, retinyl palmitate and other suspect chemicals.