Here’s a sun­screen in­gre­di­ent to avoid

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - ANDY MARSO

When you reach for sun­screen to take to the pool this sum­mer, flip it over in the store and check the in­gre­di­ents.

If avoben­zone is among them, you might want to put it back on the shelf.

New re­search sug­gests that the chem­i­cal can break down when ex­posed to a com­bi­na­tion of light and chlo­ri­nated wa­ter.

“It can de­grade into some very harm­ful com­pounds, some of which are known car­cino­gens,” said Daniel Aires, a der­ma­tol­o­gist with the Uni­ver­sity of Kansas Health Sys­tem. “What isn’t known is how much is ab­sorbed into the skin, or if it’s to a level that can cause or po­ten­tially in­crease the risk of cancer. But this is cer­tainly alarm­ing.”

Aires said avoben­zone should be of par­tic­u­lar con­cern for young chil­dren, who might lick their arms for no ap­par­ent rea­son af­ter they’ve been in the pool and in­gest the chem­i­cal af­ter it has bro­ken down.

“For smaller kids es­pe­cially, I think it’s prob­a­bly just best to avoid it in case it goes in the mouth,” Aires said.

Aires said there’s plenty of sun­screens that don’t have avoben­zone. The safest, most proven prod­ucts are based on zinc and ti­ta­nium, but not mi­cro-sized zinc and ti­ta­nium, he said, and not sprays. Lo­tions are bet­ter.

“The draw­back to those sun­screens is they tend to look kind of chalky,” Aires said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion first ap­proved an avoben­zone-based sun­screen prod­uct in 1988.

If sun­screen with avoben­zone is all that’s on hand, Aires said it’s bet­ter to use it than ex­pose skin to sun­light for pro­longed pe­ri­ods with­out any pro­tec­tion. The re­search sug­gest­ing avoben­zone might cause harm is still pre­lim­i­nary, while re­search con­nect­ing sun­burns to in­creased risk of cancer is de­fin­i­tive.

“If the choice is be­tween get­ting a sun­burn and us­ing a sun­screen with some risk, it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter to use sun­screen,” Aires said.


New re­search sug­gests that avoben­zone in sun­screens can break down into po­ten­tially harm­ful sub­stances when ex­posed to sun­light and chlo­ri­nated wa­ter.

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