Ah, summertime. Pools, beach, relaxation, and… toxins?! Before stepping into the sun for some summer fun, there are some things you need to know.
The Secrets of Sunscreen
The Environmental Working Group (or EWG) recently released the results of a study that tested the efficacy of 800 various sunscreens. The results are staggering, yet somewhat better than previous years: a mere 25 percent of those sunscreens are considered safe and effective.
The study concludes that 56 percent of beach and sport sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone. True, this chemical is put in sunscreens with good intentions; oxybenzone absorbs the sun’s harmful U-V Rays. However, the chemical is possibly causing more harm than good.
How? Oxybenzone penetrates and damages the skin. It is considered a photocarcinogen. Translation: oxybenzone is a substance that leads to cancer following illumination (i.e., the sun’s rays). Toxicology experts believe oxybenzone is a contributing factor to cell damage, which could possibly lead to skin cancer. That’s not all. Oxybenzone is also believed to behave similarly to the estrogen hormone and is linked to hormone disruption, thus possibly leading to breast cancer. Even sunscreens that contain Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) have been known to cause skin cancer in laboratory tests.
And now to debunk another myth: sunscreen with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) higher than 50 doesn’t better protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. SPF 15 can block about 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays, whereas SPF 50 blocks only five percent more. Anything higher than that, is misleading and simply a waste of money.
Luckily, there are sunscreens on the market that do not contain dangerous chemicals. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens are considered effective and safe. Make sure you purchase a lotion rather than a spray or powder. Look for “broad-spectrum protection,” which is protection against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA radiation causes aging and premature skin damage, while UVB rays cause sunburns.
So, before you slather on all that sunscreen, think twice about what you are really putting on to your skin.
For a full list of chemical-free sunscreens, click here.
Toxic Water Floaties?
Most kid’s water floaties are made from PVC plastic, usually listed as vinyl. PVC has been known to cause cancer, birth defects, and skin diseases. Even worse, when PVC comes into contact with high heat, the chances of chemical leaching are increased. PVC is highly sensitive to heat and sunlight, thus increasing thus process of chemical leaching. Children in particular are more sensitive to the cancer risks posed by inhaling vinyl chloride, one of the known carcinogens emitted by this source category.
Almost all inflatable toys are made from PVC. Most pool mats and dense foam kickboards are also covered in a layer of waterproof vinyl. They are easily identifiable by their rubbery and shiny exterior.
Pool Toy Alternatives:
It is difficult to avoid inflatable pool toys that contain PVC, so try purchasing used toys. This way, the toys have an opportunity to “off-gas.” Lightweight, noodle-style pool toys are a safe alternative as well. There are a few floaties and mats made from non-toxic materials… you just have to be willing to search a little to find them.
Chlorine in Pools
The chlorine used to sanitize pools has proven to be quite harmful. Actually, it’s what the chlorine turns into that’s the real problem. When combined with organics such as sweat, dander, and urine, the chlorine reacts and produces dangerous chemicals. The most obvious instant reactions of high exposure to chlorine are red eyes and skin irritations. Also, chlorine byproducts found in swimming pools are linked to higher incidences of asthma and lung damage.
Pool Additive Option:
One non-toxic and safe alternative to treating a pool with chlorine is treating it with ozone gas instead. This method has become quite popular, and multiple commercial, waterpark, and hotel pools are switching to ozone technologies. Many people are requesting ozone pools for their own backyards as well. Although initially a higher cost, ozone technologies actually reduce the amount of ongoing maintenance costs. Dirt, grease, and oils will not clog up the filter system as fast as chlorinated pools. You can Say goodbye to red, itchy eyes, too. So, before splashing around in any pool this summer, ask if it’s chlorine-FREE. Consider switching your own pool to an ozone system.
A little preparedness goes a long way to protect your body from dangerous chemicals and toxins. Now step outside and enjoy some healthy fun in the sun this summer!
"Ask TSL: Do You Know of Any PVC-free Pools and Toys?" The Soft Landing. 06 July 2011. Web. 04 June 2012. <http://guide.thesoftlanding.com/ask-tsl-do-you-know-of-any-pvc-free-pools-and-toys/>.
"Chlorinated Swimming Pools Can Cause Asthma In Swimmers." About.com Swimming. 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 04 June 2012. <http://swimming.about.com/od/allergyandasthma/a/cl_pool_problem.htm>.
Dellorto, Danielle. "Avoid Sunscreens with Potentially Harmful Ingredients, Group Warns - CNN.com." CNN. Cable News Network, 16 May 2012. Web. 05 June 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/16/health/sunscreen-report/index.html>.
"Want to Know How to Choose the Safest Sunscreen?" EWG's Guide to Summer Sun. EWG, 16 May 2012. Web. 05 June 2012. <http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/infographic/>.