Rick Schelhas

Yup! You read that right. The Hawaii State legislator has actually approved a bill that would ban the use of over 3,500 brands of sunscreen at their beaches. According to State Senator Mike Gabbard this is the first ban of its kind anywhere in the world. The obvious reaction to that is something like, “Wait! What?, Why??” Well, according to researchers, two of the ingredients found in most sunscreens, oxybenzone and octinoxate are linked to the death of the worlds coral reefs. While the legislators are certainly not advocating for anyone to consider not using sunscreen, it is important people know what they are using and the effect of these chemicals.

Sen Gabbard told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law. So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens. When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the perfect place to set the gold standard for the world to follow. This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health.”

As you might imagine, sunscreen manufacturers are crying foul. They cite results that have only been proven in a laboratory environment and not duplicated in actual “field tests”. Thy argue many factors contribute to the destruction of coral and pinning it on sunscreen as a primary factor has not been fully determined. However A 2015 study in Environmental Contamination and Toxicology by researchers including the University of Central Florida’s professor John Fauth has concluded, among other factors, oxybenzone damages the coral’s DNA and ultimately causes it to starve.

While all this seems like a long shot concern, consider this. According to a report by NPR, some 14,000 tons of sunscreen have wash off swimmers and ended up in coral reefs. 14,000 TONS!! Although the legislature has passed this bill it is still unclear whether or not Gov. David Ige will sign it into law. However it passed on a nearly unanimous vote with only 4 legislators opposed. At this point the final passage appears sure enough that businesses in Hawaii are beginning to purge sunscreens from their shelves that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate according to NPR. Update: On July 3, 2018, Gov. David Ige signed the bill into law.

So, as the saying goes, “What’s a mother to do?” For several years the medical community has put a lot of effort behind the push to use sunscreen. There is significant concern that laws like this may begin to erode their efforts just as they are beginning to gain some traction. It may be hard for those of us in the north to understand or even feel concern for the health of the coral reefs. We don’t have coral reefs. Shoot, we hardly have warm water. But there is another reason to be concerned. One that we should all be able to get behind. Kevin Brodwick, founder of ThinkBaby, a company dedicated to the safety and well being of our children and adults has this to say about sunscreen and its use. (And in full disclosure of blatant plagiarism, this came directly from their website).

Why sunscreen?

The majority of sunscreens currently on the market are full of questionable ingredients and known carcinogens. Simply looking at the ingredients you’ll quickly realize you don’t recognize any of them. Many existing sunscreens have been brought to market with little concern for their safety. Not only do ingredients in sunscreen interact with skin, but data shows after application of lotions, some of the same chemicals can be detected in the bloodstream. Most people wear sunscreen to reduce the chance of developing cancer, so why apply something that could potentially increase this risk? This question has unfortunately left many people moving away from using sunscreen at all.

How is the Thinkbaby and Thinksport different?

At Thinkbaby and Thinksport, we are continually expanding our mission to provide safe products by identifying consumer product categories with known human health issues. Specifically, we target products that contain high levels of hormone disruptors and carcinogens. We then work with leading scientists worldwide to create safe alternatives.

Thinkbaby and Thinksport sunscreen is highly effective, falls into the highest category for water resistance (as defined by the proposed 2012 FDA Sunscreen Monograph) and has a sensible SPF 50+ rating. A quick look on your local drugstore shelf will show an increasing number of chemical sunscreens boasting ultra-high SPFs of 70 and greater. An SPF higher than SPF 30 offers only minimal improvement in sun protection and does not provide insight into its ability to protect for both UVA and UVB. Instead, these ultra-high SPFs are inflated through the use of chemical UV absorbers.   In the 2012 Sunscreen Monograph, the FDA proposed  that SPF 50+ will become the maximum value. The proposed Monograph will also eliminate the terms “Sweatproof” and “Waterproof” as false claims. 

You should know that the effective difference between SPF 30 and SPF 100 is approximately 2.5% difference. Don’t be misled by ultra-high SPF numbers. Additionally, Thinkbaby and Thinksport sunscreens utilize average zinc oxide particles greater than 110nm. Kevin Brodwick, founder of Thinkbaby and Thinksport explains why: “We always use the precautionary principle and as we expect the debate on the safety of nano particles to continue, we asked a simple question: Does the product have to contain nano particles to be an effective sunscreen? The answer is, quite simply, “NO”!

We also do not and won’t use aerosol dispensers, nor should you.  Scientists have shown that parents apply on average 25% of the correct amount when using aerosol.  As the SPF is actually a logarithmic function,  if you are applying a SPF 100, you’re actually only putting on SPF equivalent of 3.  More importantly, there is significant concern that children and parents are inhaling the particulates.  If you look at the ingredients in aerosol sunscreens, you’ll quickly determine why you probably don’t want to breathe it.

So the bottom line here is, Use sunscreen! Just use the right stuff. We happen to think the ThinkSport and ThinkBaby products are a good option. So much so we carry it in our store and I’m using it on my new granddaughter when she comes over. But whatever you choose to use, use something. While the Hawaii bill might seem like a misprint at first blush, it really does make some sense. And maybe, in some weird way, it may get more people talking about sunscreen use. And maybe, just maybe, keep a few of us enjoying the lazy dog days of summer with a little more piece of mind.

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Happy Summer!!!