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'Reconsider your comments:' sunscreen chemicals are harmful

Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere's Aug. 11 column,  "What's Blumenthal so worked up about? Sunscreen," received numerous responses from experts across the country making the case that, contrary to Choiniere's opinion, sunscreen use is a serious problem causing health and environmental damage and that Senator Blumenthal is right to demand answers. The following is a sampling of what they had to say.

Thanks for your Aug. 11 column spotlighting the letter from Senators Blumenthal, Schumer, Leahy, Markley, and Merkley to acting FDA Commissioner Norman stating they are "pleased to see the FDAʻs recent action to address the safety and efficacy of sunscreens to keep consumers safe and informed."

For more than 20 years, numerous studies have shown that FDA approved sunscreen chemicals are harmful to marine ecosystems, and that these same chemicals are linked to serious human health issues. Concerns about the adverse environmental impact of these chemicals have inspired successful bans on reef-toxic sunscreens internationally, so the  concurrent re-evaluation of how these chemicals affect people is critical, welcome and long overdue.

Thank you again for sharing the importance of this topic!

Lisa Bishop
President, Friends of Hanauma Bay

Honolulu, Hawaii


I read your column published in the Aug. 11 edition of The Day and wish to take issue with your comments. As a beast cancer survivor and outdoor enthusiast, I have depended on that “shot glass” of various sunscreens to allow me to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors. I have read the numerous studies on the harmful effects of certain sunscreen ingredients on coral, dolphins and humans. It’s most definitely time for FDA to implement the rules put forward by Senators Leahy, Blumenthal and others. The rule would:

• Assess the safety and efficacy of 12 common active ingredients used in sunscreen for which data is lacking;

• Propose safe and effective dosages of sunscreen;

• Change the maximum proposed sun protection factor or “SPF” on product labels to 60+;

• Require that SPF 15+ sunscreens provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays;

• Require clear labeling of key active ingredients on packaging so that consumers can make informed choices;

• Allow the FDA to assess industry compliance; and

• Deem products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent as not recognized as safe.

Please reconsider your comments . Thank you for listening to my opinion. 

Dorothy L. Leonard

Ocean Equities LLC

Stevensville, Maryland

I am very pleased regarding your Sunday column, especially the concerns that Senators Blumenthal, Leahy, and Schumer have about sunscreen chemicals.

The FDA exposure study is the tip of the iceberg. We have known that many of these sunscreen chemicals could induce endocrine and reproductive pathologies in rats during prolonged exposure since 1992. We've known that many of these chemicals in personal care products could contaminate human breastmilk since 1995. We've known since the early 2000 that you could detect oxybenzone in your urine in less than 30 minutes after application of an oxybenzone-sunscreen to your skin. What the FDA published wasn't anything new; what was newsworthy was that the FDA finally got off the fence, did some science, and were horrified by the results.

Many congresspersons have known about the diseases caused or are associated by many of the petroleum-based sunscreens.  They became aware of them shortly after we published our study showing oxybenzone was a real threat to U.S. coral reefs.  Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard even drafted a bill that required stricter regulations (prescription only) of oxybenzone/octinoxate sunscreens back in mid-2018.

If you read her short bill, you can see where she recognized that oxybenzone may cause Hirschsprung birth defect in humans.

No one in the media talks about the science that has been present for over a decade about the dire impacts these UV chemicals may have on human health.  

If you think the Bayer/glyphosate lawsuits are newsworthy, just understand that the National Institutes of Health did a study showing that 96.8% of the U.S. population is contaminated with oxybenzone. We are just uncovering the mechanisms in which oxybenzone and these other UV sunscreens can cause diseases in humans, especially in fetal development and impacts of child and pubescent development. Not to mention the potential impacts exposure to these chemicals may have with adverse drug interaction with other drugs.

Thank you again for your column bringing this to the public's attention.

Craig A. Downs, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Haereticus Environmental Laboratory

Clifford, Virginia

Thanks for the interesting Aug. 11 commentary titled, "What's Blumenthal so worked up about? Sunscreen."

With respect to your comment −"However, before you sign-off on sunscreen and refuse to go out without a burka, consider at this point there is no evidence the chemicals at the levels found are a health risk" − I urge you to look at the scientific data.

Maybe after reviewing this information, you might understand why Blumenthal is worked up. The industry claimed, by submitting data to FDA, that these chemicals do not absorb into the body and have repeatedly claimed that sunscreens are safe and prevent skin cancer. None of these statements are true based on the scientific published data!

Skin cancer has been significantly increasing globally, the World Health Organization states that there is no evidence sunscreens prevent basal cell or melanoma cancers; significant levels of these chemicals get into our bodies; and hundreds of publications have described numerous adverse effects these chemicals have to many species including humans.

Joe DiNardo

Retired industry toxicologist





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