Heated debate over sunscreen’s effects on body and environment
You may remember the viral commencement speech from the 1990s that started with two simple words of advice for graduates: “Wear sunscreen.”
Twenty years later, sunscreen has become ubiquitous in our warming, hot, sunny summers, even here on the supposedly soggy West Coast. The sun’s rays are harmful, we are told over and over again, and we need to protect ourselves.
The proof is in the death: almost everyone knows someone who has died from melanoma cancer (most cases are from sun exposure or the equivalent, while some cases occur from other means). As of last year, the U.S. Cancer Institute reported that melanoma cases have tripled since 1970. The most at-risk are white men.
So lather up, but with what?
Recently, we’ve been hearing more and more about both the unintended environmental and human health impacts of certain widely available sunscreens.
When a friend saw me lathering up my kids in SPF 60 before going to the park in the middle of the summer, he chastised me.
“Why would you smother your children’s skin in dangerous chemicals?” he questioned. “The rays of the sun are perfectly natural, and a valuable source of vitamin D.”
He pushed his point by saying, “In the heat of the day, cover up the kids with some comfortable, appropriate clothing. It’s much better for their health.”
I’ll clarify that this friend was extremely tanned, spends his winters in Mexico, and is not a doctor. But his words had an impact on me.
What is worse, covering yourself and your kids in a chemical sunscreen every day from mid-May to mid-September or none at all and risk dangerous solar radiation?
Is there a healthy alternative?
I recently asked what other parents’ sunscreen practices are on social media, and was blasted back with the power of a thousand suns, many parents jumping to conclusions, assuming I was not properly looking after my children — one going so far as to compare those that are anti-sunscreen to anti-vaxxers, and thought I was crowd sourcing opinions on my kids’ health.
Other parents’ responses ranged from “no sunscreen, ever” to “SPF 70 every day” to “UV-protected sun hats and clothing sold at MEC.”
When I asked what sunscreen brands parents chose, one response was “sunscreen is crazy expensive, so whatever is on sale,” while a few others swear by Goddess Garden, which uses natural plant-based ingredients and minerals as opposed to chemicals. Essentially, the thinking is that mineral-based sunscreens reflect the sun by sitting on top of your skin, whereas chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin.
One mother told me she makes her own sunscreen, based on a recipe that includes zinc oxide powder, coconut oil and other natural ingredients. (For the record, the Canadian Dermatology Association does not recommend making your own sunscreen.)
And what about the environmental havoc chemical sunscreens are supposedly reeking on oceans, lakes and rivers? Last summer, it was suggested by the Vancouver Sun that sunscreen could be the culprit in the “slowly dying” Cowichan River, the cumulative result of thousands of summer tubing enthusiasts leaving a sheen of sunscreen on the water surface that could be impacting all natural river life, from the insects to the fish, birds, amphibians and plant life.
Also last summer, Hawaii became the first U.S. state to ban sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which have been proven to be extremely harmful and deadly to coral reefs.
At least the Cowichan River and other B.C. waterways and beaches get a break in the winter. In many tropical places, sunscreen-lathered bodies hit the water all year long. Key West has followed Hawaii’s lead, and it looks like Miami Beach is following (bathing) suit.
If you care, and you wear sunscreen, that’s a lot to consider for both your body, your kids and the environment.
Aaron Frisby owns the Tube Shack in Cowichan River and has found himself caught between business and ecology. He spent months researching the perfect sunscreen for his customers that won’t harm the river, and thinks he’s found it in a product called Stream2Sea.
Frisby says Stream2Sea is not only better for the waterway, it’s better for your body. It does not contain oxybenzone and other chemicals that could leach into your bloodstream. According to Stream2Sea, those chemicals could then also be passed through urine, sweat or breast milk.
Frisby told the CBC that any sunscreen containing oxybenzone is “not safe for rivers or reefs, and to be perfectly honest, not really safe to be put on bodies,” whereas he assures us that, after some trial and error, he is “100 per cent sure that Stream2Sea is safe for humans, fish and rivers.” He also pointed out that Stream2Sea’s bottle isn’t even plastic, but made from sugarcane resin, a biodegradable plastic alternative.
The widely available Goddess Garden also lists their sunscreen as “reef safe and biodegradable.” And mineral lotions are better than spray bottles.
So this summer, when you slop on the sunscreen at the beach, the waterpark or the river, please take a few moments to make sure your sunscreen is safe for you, your kids and our natural world. What is your choice?
By: Tri-City News
GuidedBy is a community builder and part of the Glacier Media news network. This article originally appeared on a Glacier Media publication.
Tips to be More Active While Working
The workday can be consumed by meetings, deadlines, and overall job requirements. Many people spend a great amount of time...
Healthy Meal Prep Ideas
Salad Plate Healthy meal prep saves time and money and lets you fully enjoy cooking without feeling guilty about eating out....
Summer Hikes in Vancouver: A Detailed Guide
If you're looking for a great way to take in the sights and sounds of summer, consider going on a hike. Vancouver is home to...
7 beauty trends for summer 2021
You may be looking forward to re-entering society this summer or at least looking better during a video meeting. Beauty trends...
BLOG: Parents, it's time to tame those tech-addicted tots
“When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?” Nature Valley posed this question to three generations of “real families” in...
More people are going on 'strike' against having kids. I get it
The other day, as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, a tweet by a fellow journalist caught my eye. It read, “My husband...
PARENTING TODAY: Helping kids grow up is a process
Recently a librarian shared a story with me. In the children’s department of a local library a boy about six years old came...
PARENTING TODAY: Rituals offer children comfort in an unpredictable world
When our daughter Chelsea attended university in Montreal she was chatting with her friends about their various plans for the...
Why you need to introduce your kids to the dentist at an early age
Sponsored Content At what age should you first introduce your child to the dentist’s chair? “As soon as their first teeth...
Want to achieve your full potential? Sometimes doing less is the only way
Often we think doing more is the only way to be successful, but according to life coach Karen Moilliet, cutting out habits and...
6 reasons why you should see an acupuncturist
Sponsored Content If you have a kink in your neck that your physiotherapist is taking months to work out, or you have a...
Change the way you think about braces
Sponsored Content For those of us who endured years of metal wires and brackets cemented to our teeth, the arrival...
Health-minded ‘blender bar’ launches in Kitsilano
Shift Shakes, a health-minded high-end “blender bar” has opened in Vancouver’s Kitsilano. The ambitious smoothie shop...
Profiles of Excellence: Triniti Laser Clinic and Medi Spa
Sponsored Content For Tahora Eslahian and Tina Ruggiero, there’s no better magic than the ability to transform how a client...
Dentist comes full circle, landing back in Tsawwassen
Sponsored Content “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” That’s what Dr. Brian Ruddy said when asked what...
What's the best way to avoid a root canal procedure?
Sponsored Content Dr. Mark Parhar of Tri-City Endodontics will tell you that the best way to avoid a root...
The many benefits of weekly meal prepping
Eating five times daily, as most know we should, is difficult if you also want to eat cleanly by limiting artificial and...
Get the star skin care treatment you’ve always wanted
Sponsored Content Want to be pampered like a celebrity? Become a client of Celebrity Laser and Skin Care in North Vancouver...
The Lipstick Project seeks volunteers to help patients 'feel like themselves again'
Given her nature, her last wish came as a surprise to her friends and family: she wanted a makeover. “In her last two days...
North Shore personalities spill their hair secrets
Can a well-groomed coif contribute to success in career and life? Judging from many CEOs, celebrities and some of the North...
China's new online cosmetics stars: men
When Jiang Cheng first tried a bit of concealer during his first year of university in China it gave him self-confidence and he...
Float your stress and pain away
A sweeping trend in health and wellness has recently set up shop in South Delta. Spa Bleu opened its doors last fall on...
These vegan beauty products are so natural you can eat them
Natural Vegan creates personal care and beauty products that are cruelty free and certified vegan. The products, which range...
There’s an underground society of naked sauna people traveling around B.C.
“Bring a towel.” That’s the message from the BC Mobile Sauna Society – a mobile sauna and spa society that provides saunas...
Give the gift of relaxation
Sponsored Content The Christmas holidays can be a stressful time when it comes to finding the right gift for that special...
Quilts Provide Comfort at Dr. Myrna Pearce’s Dental Practice
Sponsored Content Long before Dr. Myrna Pearce was a dentist, she excelled at doing detailed handiwork. Her aunt...
Donated wigs welcome, says Canadian Cancer Society
A recent post on the Vernon Community Forum Facebook group asked if a person could donate their wig to someone...