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The livin’ is easy (-ish)


June 21, 2012

Just in time for summer sun, Environmental Working Group has released its 2012 Sunscreen Report. It’s thorough, and it challenges the notion that if we just lather on gobs of the stuff, we’re safe. For starters, there’s no clear evidence that sunscreen actually prevents skin cancer; in fact, the FDA admits that it is “not aware of any studies examining the effect of sunscreen use on the development of melanoma.” In addition, using sunscreen may give people an unwarranted sense of security, making them more apt to stay out too long in the sun’s harmful rays. Suncreens with high Sun Protection Factors (SPFs) may not have any increased efficacy in preventing skin cancer. Twenty-five percent of sunscreens contain retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A which, when exposed to sun, may actually speed up the development of tumors. Visit www.ewg.org/ and search “2012 sunscreen database” for the full story and to check the ratings of 1800 sunscreens.

Sometimes when I’m hiking, my insect repellent is no match for the bugs, so I give up swatting and complaining. I become one with the gnats. They don’t stop swarming, but I stop being bothered. It can be a transcendent experience. Most of the time, however, I walk gnat-free if I rub citronella, lemongrass or pennyroyal oil onto my exposed skin. Other options are cedar leaf, peppermint or geranium oil. When I’m relaxing on the patio, I keep the mosquitoes and other bugs at bay by lighting two or three strategically placed citronella candles.

I prefer to use herbal oils rather than DEET, the powerful pesticide in commercial insect repellents, because whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. Which brings us to chlorine. It’s used in pools to kill stuff. We swim in it. Not only is chlorine toxic all by itself, scientists have discovered that it reacts with sweat, urine and skin cells (in other words, stuff you might find in a pool) to create chemical by-products that have been linked to increased incidents of asthma and cancer.

Barring installation of expensive alternatives to chlorine like ionization, oxidation or sonic waves, take a cooling swim in one of our area’s lakes or in the river. Please wear your floatation device in the river.