As a result of our latest research, we now comprehend the need to change the entire language and belief systems regarding sunscreens and their use. Those who have become aware of the truth regarding sunscreens and have attempted to invoke bans on its use are thwarted by people in governing bodies who, without the science and medical background to understand the products’ detrimental impact, believe that banning their use would create more harm to humans.
In reality, when sunscreens are used, there is harm to humans as well as to all marine life. Every chemical that qualifies for a “solar protective factor” (SPF) rating is toxic to all life on the planet. The information in this article regarding sunscreens needs wide dissemination—and especially to politicians charged with protecting their constituents.
There are two categories of sunscreens on the market: physical sunscreens that feature ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, and chemical sunscreens that include ingredients like octinoxate. Studies indicate that both impair hormonal and developmental pathways.1 In the two books we have written on sunscreens, we have provided over one thousand references proving that sunscreens are harmful.2,3
Below, we summarize some of the key facts about sunscreen harms and also describe some encouraging progress regarding the banning of sunscreen.
THE ESSENTIAL SUNSHINE VITAMIN
Vitamin D is essential to our health and innate immunity. Among vitamin D’s many vital functions, it is required for us to absorb calcium, so it is important in preventing osteoporosis. Half of patients with inflammatory bowel disease are vitamin-D-deficient4 (see comprehensive list in “Vitamin D—The Sunshine Vitamin,” Chapter 16 in Sunscreens Biohazard 2.3) Vitamin D deficiency has also been much discussed in connection with Covid-19.
It is critical to know that sunscreens block the UVB (ultraviolet B) rays of the sun, and it is UVB radiation that provides our ability to make vitamin D.
The so-called “mineral” sunscreens billed as “kid-safe” use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide micro and nanoparticles. These chemicals are very damaging to our bodies and especially to children. It took us a whole book, Sunscreens Biohazard 2 to provide the details explaining the potential damage.3
One harm that has been identified is interference with our methylation pathway, MTHFR, reducing the body’s ability to perform its critically important function of detoxing the many chemicals we are exposed to today.5 Impaired methylation has become a wisespread problem.
THE MELANOMA LIE
The notion that sunscreens protect from melanoma has been disproven and needs to be obliterated. Using sunscreens actually promotes melanomas and skin cancers. Melanoma rates have climbed steadily since the introduction of sunscreens in the late 1970s.6
Unfortunately, the market trends for sunscreens clearly show that the lies about melanoma are not being publicized. Chemical sunscreens are increasingly used in beauty products. One of their key ingredients—titanium dioxide—is also found in “white foods” such as puddings and seafood products.1 Sales of sunscreens globally were over eight billion dollars in 2019, and forecasted to reach almost eleven billion dollars by 2024.7
MARINE IMPACTS AND THEIR LESSONS
The marketing of “mineral” sunscreens increasingly promotes them as “reef safe,” but these products still harm the oceans, deflecting the sun’s rays. Ocean life needs sunlight. When fourteen thousand tons of sunscreens are released into the oceans annually, they block the sunlight for all marine life that has developed with sunlight.8 Most of the chemicals lead to the death of coral reefs. The zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens kill the phytoplankton— the bottom of the food chain in the oceans.9
Sunscreen chemicals are very hormonally active. It has been well-documented that they are generally testosterone-blocking or estrogenic. For our male population, the anti-testosterone hormone chemicals influence their ability to fully develop as men by impairing the testosterone actions within their bodies, especially during fetal development. Compounded with the addition of estrogen sunscreen chemicals it further feminizes our young boys. These detrimental actions are well documented in Sunscreens Biohazard 2.3
Hormonally active chemical sunscreens also cause the creation of fish that are neither completely male nor completely female,10 leading to what researchers have labeled as “intersex fish.”11 These fish are so hormonally confused that they even stop breeding.12
As sunscreens are absorbed into the body, the growing gender dysphoria phenomenon suggests we are seeing a similar confusion of male-female sex hormones playing out in our younger generations.13 Many children get slathered with sunscreen every day!
“SAFE” DOESN’T MEAN MUCH
Today, many sunscreen chemicals are being identified and labeled as toxic. However, there are others that are definitely toxic but are still billed as “safe.”
Manufacturers had to add chemicals blocking UVA (ultraviolet A) to their list of approved chemicals when they realized that skin cancers were still occurring—and were even increasing—when just UVB was blocked. They added chemicals like avobenzone to their formulas, stating they were being included to block UVA. However, an article published in 2004 in Toxicology showed that the chemical does not protect from UVA radiation.14 Later articles also reported that avobenzone breaks down quickly, degrading upon exposure to the sun.15
Be aware that there can be other problems with sunscreen formulations. In 2021, for example, a recall of several specific brands was implemented after finding that they contained benzene, a chemical known to cause leukemia and other blood disorders.16
PROTECTING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
Mother Nature supplies all that our bodies need to protect us from sunlight radiation and, at the same time, from radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Both of these radiations cause oxidation damage, so eating antioxidant foods and supplements can both prevent and repair the damage. Antioxidants—much less expensive than sunscreens—are the answer, providing better protection for our bodies and all life on the planet. (See “Antioxidants: Mother Nature’s Protective Sunscreens,” Chapter 17 in Sunscreens Biohazard 2,3 for a complete list of the many antioxidants scientifically proven to protect from solar radiation damage and, therefore, also from EMF radiation.)
We need to ban all the sunscreen chemicals and rethink what constitutes public safety. We also need to reconsider the manufactured belief that sunlight is detrimental to health—it is not. Sunlight is essential for us and for all life on the planet, including marine life; we would not exist without it. That is why it is tragic to see so much misinformation regarding sunscreens and sun exposure flooding the Internet (where most people turn to find the “truth”). People deserve to know that these chemicals are far more detrimental than the sun to their health, the health of their children and the health of the entire planet.
BANS: A SMALL BEGINNING
It is great to see sunscreen bans in certain cities and countries. There are instances, however, where uninformed government entities and politicians are opposing these bans. These opponents need this information and need to be made aware of the biological harms listed in our two books.2,3
HAWAII: A Hawaiian law banning sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate passed in 2018 and went into effect on January 1, 2021.17 However, there was no provision as to who would be responsible for enforcing it.18 Hawaii subsequently made it unlawful to sell any sunscreen containing the two chemicals over the counter, requiring a doctor’s prescription.19 Both chemicals have documented impacts on coral reefs and other marine life.
BONAIRE: Two weeks after Hawaii’s landmark ban, the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean passed a similar ban.20
FLORIDA: In March 2019, Key West followed suit, banning the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, to take effect (as in Hawaii) on January 1, 2021.21 In 2020, however, the Florida senate voted to prevent the state’s cities and counties from banning the sunscreens, tying the hands of those in Key West who are attempting to save their coral and marine life.22
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: In July 2019, the U.S. Virgin Islands banned the sale, distribution, importation and possession of sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate as well as octocrylene, to prevent coral bleaching and because of the chemicals’ carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting effects.23 The restrictions went into full effect in March of 2020, with fines of one thousand dollars for first offenses and two thousand dollars for subsequent offenses.
ARUBA: In November 2019, Aruba banned the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, and at the same time, banned all disposable, single-use plastics such as food containers, plastic utensils and plastic cups.24 (The island had already banned single-use plastic bags in 2017.)
PALAU: In late 2018, the small island nation of Palau passed the most comprehensive ban and the first ban on a national scale, prohibiting the sale and import of “reef-toxic” and endocrine-disrupting sunscreens containing any of the ten following chemicals: 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor; octinoxate, octocrylene; oxybenzone; various parabens (benzylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben); phenoxyethanol; and triclosan.25 The ban took effect on January 1, 2020. This list includes the preservatives used by sunscreen manufacturers, recognizing that the preservatives, too, kill coral reefs.
MEXICO: Some popular Mexican ecotourism destinations require visitors to use “biodegradable” and “reef-safe” sunscreens (meaning products that do not contain octinoxate, oxybenzone and other UV blockers) and state that they will “confiscate any regular chemical or oil-bases [sic] sunscreens upon sight.”26 This applies to Riviera Maya destinations such as Cancun, Xel-Ha, Cozumel and the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park in Los Cabos. However, some describe the “reef-safe” label as “a sales gimmick,” particularly since the titanium dioxide in most “reef-safe” sunscreens has also been shown to be harmful to marine organisms.27
- Plourde E. Sunscreens: the dark side of avoiding the sun. Wise Traditions. 2018;19(4):26-37.
- Plourde E. Sunscreen Biohazard: Treat as Hazardous Waste. New Voice Publications; 2012.
- Plourde E, Plourde M. Sunscreens Biohazard 2: Proof of Toxicity Keeps Piling Up. New Voice Publications; 2015.
- Fletcher J, Cooper S, Ghosh S, et al. The role of vitamin D in inflammatory bowel disease: mechanism to management. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1019.
- Pogribna M, Koonce NA, Mathew A, et al. Effect of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on DNA methylation in multiple human cell lines. Nanotoxicology. 2020;1494):534-553.
- National Cancer Institute. Melanoma of the skin: long-term trends in SEER age-adjusted incidence rates, 1975–2019. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/melan.html (retrieved May 16, 2022).
- Statista. Forecasted market value of sunscreen cream worldwide in 2019 and 2024. www.statista.com/statistics/866356/sunscreen-ingredients-global-market-size-forecast/ (retrieved May 10, 2022).
- Cooper C. Is your sunscreen killing coral reefs? The Ocean Foundation, Dec. 13, 2018. www.oceanfdn.org/is-your-sunscreen-killing-coral-reefs/ (retrieved May 4, 2022).
- Miller RJ, Bennett S, Keller AA, et al. Tio2 nanoparticles are phototoxic to marine phytoplankton. PLOS One. 2020;7(1):e30321.
- Study: sunscreen sexually alters fish. UPI, Nov. 15, 2005.
- Hagerman E. Something in the water is feminizing male fish. Are we next? Popular Science, Nov. 30, 2009.
- Weisbrod CJ, Kunz PY, Zenker AK, et al. Effects of the UV filter benzophenone-2 on reproduction in fish. Toxiol Appl Pharmacol. 2007;225(3);255-266.
- Hood E. Are EDCs blurring issues of gender? Environ Health Perspect. 2005;113(10):A670-A677.
- Armeni T, Damiani E, Battino M, et al. Lack of in vitro protection by a common sunscreen ingredient on UVA-induced cytotoxicity in keratinocytes. Toxicology. 2004;203(1-3):165-178.
- Kumar P, Deshpande A. Patent review on photostability enhancement of avobenzone and its formulations. Recent Pat Drug Deliv Formul. 2015;9(2):121-128.
- LaMotte S. Sunscreen recall: what the finding of a cancer-causing chemical means for you. CNN, Jul. 17, 2021.
- Office of the Governor – News Release – Governor David Ige signs bill making Hawaii first in the world to ban certain sunscreens. Jul. 3, 2018.
- Caulfield C. Hawaii has a ban on sunscreen chemicals but no one’s sure who should enforce it. Honolulu Civil Beat, Aug. 3, 2021.
- Justia Website. §342D-21 Sale and distribution of sunscreen containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, or both; prohibition. HI Rev Stat §342D-21 (2021). https://law.justia.com/codes/hawaii/2021/title-19/chapter-342d/section-342d-21/ (retrieved June 3, 2022).
- InfoBonaire. Bonaire joins Hawaii in approving ban on sunscreen products containing oxybenzone. DiveNewsWire, May 21, 2018.
- Key West bans coral-damaging sunscreen. EcoWatch, Feb. 7, 2019.
- Aaro D. Florida Senate OKs bill to block cities from banning sunscreens. Fox News, Jan. 31, 2020.
- Stanton M. US Virgin Islands bans sunscreen containing these three ingredients. Lonely Planet, Sep. 4, 2019.
- Janczewski M. Aruba officially bans plastics and oxybenzone. VisitAruba News, Nov. 21, 2019.
- Palau is first country to ban “reef toxic” sun cream. BBC, Jan. 1, 2020.
- JS Tour & Travel Website. Marine–friendly sunscreen. www.playadelcarmentours.com/biodegradable-sunscreen-xel-ha-xcaret.htm (retrieved June 3, 2022).
- Wadyka S. The truth about “reef safe” sunscreen. Consumer Reports, Jul. 10, 2018.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2022🖨️ Print post