Next time you’re at the produce section of your favorite grocery store and are faced with a choice between seedless grapes and non-seedless, go for the seeds. Sure, those little seeds are annoying and most people just spit them out. But after you read this, you may want to rethink that.
We’ve all seen the commercials: Athletic shoes that tone your butt, junk food that’s billed as “whole grain” or “contains more calcium than a glass of milk,” diet systems that promise you an athlete’s body by just popping a few pills. The list goes on and on. And people keep snapping up these and other products looking for a quick fix. If you had just landed on Earth from another planet and all you had to go on was advertising, you’d think that we were the fittest, healthiest people in the Universe. But as we all know, we may very well be the unhealthiest and unfitteset people in the Universe.
Definition: A usually urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes
Everyone knows that women—in their relentless pursuit of beauty and wrinkle-free skin—expose themselves to dozens of hazardous chemicals every day. The FDA recently reported that there was lead in 400 different kinds of lipstick. In addition there are coal tar derivatives in dark hair dyes, and hormone disruptors in perfumed beauty and personal care items.
But women aren’t the only ones dabbing a little fragrance behind the ears and on the wrists. Ann Blake, a California-based molecular geneticist says that men are exposed to as many as 80 chemicals every day in products like shampoo, soap, shaving cream, and aftershave (that Axe stuff is enough to peel the paint off the wall).
I can see it now…. A guy in a dark hoodie approaches you on the street, looks right, then left to make sure he hasn’t been followed, and then says, “Hey, buddy, want to buy some walnuts?”
Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? But in yet another example of loony government regulations, here are some actual excerpts from a letter the U. S. FDA (Food and Drug Adminisration) wrote to Diamond Foods, a huge California-based nut grower.
- “Based on our review, we have concluded that your walnut products are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) and the applicable regulations in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR).”
- “Based on claims made on your firm’s website, we have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because these products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. The following are examples of the claims made on your firm’s website under the heading of a web page stating ‘OMEGA-3s … Every time you munch a few walnuts, you’re doing your body a big favor.’”
- “Because of these intended uses, your walnut products are drugs within the meaning of section 201 (g)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(B)]. Your walnut products are also new drugs under section 201(p) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(p)] because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced conditions. Therefore, under section 505(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 355(a)], they may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.”
It just gets crazier from there. Here’s a link to the letter on the FDA’s website. This is so idiotic that I’m guessing it’ll be taken down soon. If you can’t find it, email me and I’ll send you a pdf screen shot. http://www.fda.gov/iceci/enforcementactions/warningletters/ucm202825.htm
Dear Mr. Dad: I thought I was doing the right thing by slathering my 1-year old with sunscreen when we go outside, but I just read that the chemicals in sunscreen could be more harmful than the sun. Now what are we supposed to do?
A: Summer is winding down, but there are still plenty of sunny days ahead, so your question comes at a good time. For years, we’ve been programmed to practically marinate our kids in sunscreen before sending them outside. But recently, as you point out, the effectiveness—and safety—of that strategy is in question.
Before we get to the actual ingredients of sunscreen, let’s talk about the vocabulary, which can often be contradictory, confusing, or both. In June 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to deal with this issue by coming up with new regulations for sunscreen labeling, including requiring a “drug facts” box, forbidding claims such as “sunblock” or “waterproof,” and clarifying which products can be labeled “broad spectrum” (meaning that they protect against both UVB and the more deadly UVA rays). Unfortunately, these requirements don’t go into effect until summer 2012.
Okay, back to ingredients. In a 2010 study, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit watchdog, reported that only 39 of the 500 sunscreen products they examined were safe and effective. The study claims sunscreens flaunt false sun protection (SPF) ratings, that one commonly ingredient, oxybenzone, is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can affect puberty, and another, retinyl palmitate (a derivative of Vitamin A), could actually accelerate some cancers instead of preventing them. But the emphasis needs to be on the word “could” as the research is hardly definitive.
The American Academy of Dermatology, for example, maintains that sunscreens—even those with oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate—are safe for most people over the age of six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees, but recommends that babies under six months be kept out of direct sunlight and shouldn’t wear sunscreen except in very small areas, such as their hands. For babies over six months, the AAP recommends sunscreen but says the best protection is limiting sun exposure—especially around midday—and wearing protective clothing, including a hat.
If you’re concerned about sunscreen chemicals, look for “chemical-free” or “mineral-based” brands that don’t contain oxybenzone. These mainly use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient, both of which form an actual barrier on the skin without being absorbed and start working immediately upon application.
But don’t go overboard. In small doses, the sun is actually healthy. Those UVB rays help our bodies produce vitamin D which is essential for healthy immune systems and bones. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a few hours, you and your children need protection; if you’re just running around for 10 minutes, you should be okay (but check with your pediatrician to be sure).
Here’s how to protect babies and toddlers from the sun:
- Limit exposure to direct sunlight, especially between 10am and 4pm when rays are strongest.
- Use protective lightweight clothing to cover up, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses (if they pull them off, keep putting them back on).
- If you’re not using a zinc or titanium blocks, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside so it has plenty of time to get absorbed into the skin. But regardless of the type of sunscreen, reapply every two hours or after swimming (no sunscreen is completely waterproof.)
- Don’t fear the sun. A little every day is good for you.