When a friend told Stacey Petersen that chemicals in her child’s sunscreen could be harmful, she wanted to find out more.
Petersen’s friend referred her to a report on sunscreen safety by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit environmental advocacy organization that receives funding from many sources, including natural cosmetics companies. The report by the non-profit environmental advocacy organization is hugely popular, mentioned frequently in media articles.
It’s a frightening read. Petersen was alarmed to see, for example, that oxybenzone, a chemical in her own sunscreen “acts like estrogen in the body” and is “associated with endometriosis in women.”
“I was more concerned about my children, but if it’s disrupting hormones and it could be causing cancer, I don’t want to be exposed to that either,” says Petersen.
After some further research, however, she came across other research by dermatologists showing “that the amount [of oxybenzone] your body is absorbing is so miniscule that it’s not a problem.”
The fact that some environmental scientists say many sunscreens could be toxic while dermatoloigsts say they’re safe has led to a great deal of confusion.
“I have patients with fair skin who have sun damage tell me that they don’t use sunscreen because they think the chemicals cause cancer,” says Michelle Levy, a Toronto-based dermatologist who criticizes the EWG report for being inaccurate and fear-mongering. “That’s really not true…but the odds of you getting skin cancer as a result of not protecting yourself from the sun are really high.” (All of the dermatologists interviewed for this article stated that they do not receive funding from the sunscreen industry.)
So who’s right? Healthy Debate investigates. Click here to read more.