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Originally published March 14 2011

Watch out for toxic ingredients in sunscreen

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The majority of sunscreens are toxic, environmental groups have warned.

"You want to look out for sunscreens with oxybenzone," said Jane Houlihan of the Environmental Working Group.

Research has implicated oxybenzone as a likely carcinogen, as well as a chemical that is probably absorbed into the body.

Another concern is spray-on or powdered sunscreen.

"When you spray a sunscreen, or you're using a powder sunscreen, you're very likely inhaling small particles and that may or may not be safe," Houlihan said.

And while you can hold your breath while applying such sunscreens, it may be safer to forego them entirely.

A seal from the Skin Cancer Foundation does not mean that a sunscreen is safe either, EWG warns, as the foundation will place its seal on any sunscreen that has an SPF rating higher than 15, or on the product of any company that donates $10,000.

EWG recommends using sunscreens made with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which are believed to be less dangerous than newer chemicals.

Unfortunately, warns Friends of the Earth, the majority of such sunscreens are made with nanoparticles -- particles 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Because particles of this size behave in fundamentally different ways than they do on the more familiar, macro-scale, even a safe metal may be unsafe on the nanoscale.

Evidence suggests that nano-sunscreens are in fact dangerous. Friends of the Earth cites studies showing that nanoscale zinc oxide can kill colon cells and brain stem cells, as well as penetrate the skin and travel throughout the blood and urine. The group also cites studies linking nanoscale titanium dioxide to genetic changes, Alzheimer's disease, autism and epilepsy. Nanoparticles have even been observed to cross the placental barrier in pregnant mammals.

"These nanomaterials are being added without appropriate labeling or reliable safety information, so the public has no way of making informed purchasing choices," Ian Illuminato of Friends of the Earth said.

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