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Go Ask Mom

MomsRising: Protecting our kids from toxins

Posted April 26, 2011

Summer is right around the corner, along with hot, sunshine-drenched days. If you’re like most people, you will head over to your local store and buy sunscreen, probably choosing the kind with the highest UVA/UVB rating.

Unknowingly, however, you’ll also get something you didn’t bargain for - a “healthy” dose of oxybenzone and vitamin A (retinyl palmitate). FDA data suggests that vitamin A, found in 40 percent of sunscreens on the market, may be photocarcinogenic. That means that in the presence of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the compound and skin undergo complex biochemical changes resulting in cancer. This evidence is not yet conclusive, but concerning nonetheless. Oxybenzone, a hormone-disrupting compound, is present in approximately 60 percent of sunscreens, according to the Environmental Working Group.

As you read this, you may be thinking: “Wait a minute, isn’t sunscreen supposed to prevent harmful effects of the sun and not cause added harm?” The answer should be YES! It makes no sense that manufacturers are using chemicals that on their own, when exposed to sunlight, accelerate the risk of the skin cancer they are supposed to prevent!

Sadly, though, federal legislators fail to regulate these toxic chemicals in our sunscreens or many other household products. Hopefully, if there is enough consumer pressure, our federal legislators will listen and act to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. This 30-year-old bill was intended to protect us from toxic chemicals, but has proven to be dangerously ineffective. The law grandfathered in all 60,000 chemicals used in consumer products at the time. The result is that chemicals used in consumer products are virtually unregulated.

Congress needs to update the law to ensure that chemicals are proven safe before they end up in consumer products and ultimately our bodies. The more voices our legislators hear, the better the chances are that they will support the reform bill. NC Momsrising is working diligently with legislators through grass roots efforts to support toxic chemical reform legislation.

If you would like more information about which sunscreens to use and which ones to avoid, please refer to the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 sunscreen guide, which provides a database of 500 beach and sports sunscreens available on the market. The 2011 sunscreen guide should be coming out sometime in May.

And you can join us at a free, family-friendly Toxic Free Kids Party from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 pm Sunday at Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill to learn more! At this free event sponsored by NC MomsRising and Toxic Free NC, parents will be able talk to experts about how to protect their families from toxic chemicals including those found in sunscreen, food, food-storing containers, household cleaners, moisturizers, and more. Children will have the chance to eat organic snacks and engage in activities while also helping to send a message to state legislators urging them to support toxic chemical reform.

For more information on the Toxic Free Kids Party, check out this short video about the event.

Judit Beres, of Cary, and Jessica Nakell Burroughs, of Durham, are local mothers and members of NC MomsRising. You can find MomsRising members here once a month on Go Ask Mom.

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  • bethmessersmith Apr 28, 2011

    It's really frustrating as a parent not to be able to see or clearly understand the dangers our kids are exposed to in our everyday products. What's even worse is not being sure how to avoid them. Thanks for this!