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Ask Dr. Nandi: Are sunscreens hurting the environment?

Posted at 5:34 PM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-11 17:55:58-04

(WXYZ) — With summer fast approaching, most of us will be reaching for sunscreen. And that’s important because we need to protect ourselves from skin cancers. But from rub-ons to spray-ons, how do all those chemicals affect our environment?

Well, there’s no denying that our sunscreens are getting into the environment. Whether you rub-on or spray-on, at least some of the sunscreen will wash off when you’re in the water.

While studies are definitely showing an affect on marine life, the results are not definitive. One reason results are being questioned is that they’re being done in labs with highly concentrated amounts of sunscreen chemicals. And these tests do not reflect real-life marine conditions. And when it comes to spray-ons, the problem is that you’re very likely to breathe in those nanoparticles. Which can affect the health of your lungs, possibly causing irreversible damage. And since they float through the air, others may breathe them in as well.

You can wear lightweight clothing to cover up instead and only apply sunscreen to exposed areas. The American Cancer Society has a phrase: “Slip, slop, slap and wrap.” -- Slip on a long-sleeve shirt, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, slop on the sunscreen, and use UV-protective sunglasses that wrap around the eyes.

I recommend you try to use a mineral sunscreen instead of chemical. The main ingredients in mineral sunscreens are typically zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a combination of both. They work immediately because they sit on your skin and physically block the UVA and UVB rays. While chemical sunscreens need about 20 to 30 minutes before they become effective, they are more likely to cause skin irritation. And what’s really disturbing to me, is that they’ve been found to show up in the urine of 97 percent of users.

But no matter the method you choose, one thing doctors all agree on is that we all need to protect ourselves because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Are your genes really your destiny? Modern science is showing us that this idea is now outdated. Join Dr. Nandi, MD on the all-new Dr. Nandi Show where Dirty Genes author, Dr. Ben Lynch explains how we can clean up our genes to achieve greater health. Plus a former homeless teen who became a United Nations Global Ambassador is living proof that our genes don’t have to limit us. You won’t want to miss this discussion with activist and social entrepreneur, Bryant McGill. Tune in this Saturday, May 11th at 1 pm.