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Monday, January 23, 2006

If Sunscreen Can Change The Sex Of Fish, What Can It Do To You?

According to The Independent, scientists have found that male hornyhead turbot and English sole, feeding near sewage outfalls on the Californian coast, are being feminized - and a chemical found in sunscreens is the likely culprit.
University of California scientists found that the only culprit they could "exclusively identify" is oxybenzone, used to protect the skin from the ultraviolet component of sunlight.

Oxybenzone, which mimics oestrogen's chemical make-up, is washed off tanned bodies in the shower, passes through sewage works unchanged and settles on the seabed, where bottom-feeding fish eat it.

Of course, we are exposed to such chemicals several times over - first by applying them on our skin, then injesting them in drinking water, and also via the fish we eat.

The cosmetics industry denies the chemicals are dangerous, and says that"sunscreen phobia" could lead to more cancers. However, there have been other concerns about potential health effects. The author Geoffrey Lean also reports that some clear sunscreens use nanoparticles so small they can penetrate the skin and even get into the brain.

The article also points out that there is also concern about the universal use of sunscreens: by shielding ourselves from sunlight, we produce less vitamin D, which of course protects against as many as 16 different cancers.


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