Getting a tan is a deadly past time. Sure, slop on sunscreen to give yourself a better chance, but don't read the label, because what's in it could kill you.
Sunscreen can do damage to your skin -- blisters, rashes and painful sores. But it gets worse. Environmental Toxicologist Doctor Peter Dingle has grave concerns about the majority of sunscreens used in Australia. "A lot of the chemicals are absorbed into the skin, and when they're absorbed into the skin and they react with the sun, they can actually become much more toxic than the sun itself", Dr. Dingle said.
Cody Rixon and his mother Kim know first hand the problems sunscreens can cause. Cody reacts badly to regular sunscreens. "When I used the chemical sunscreen I found that he got a really bad rash. It was very prickly and very itchy on the skin. quite inflamed, and basically he used to scratch and scratch and scratch", Kim said.
When Kim switched to a cream without the chemicals the problems stopped. "There should be warnings on all the sunscreens for children and for adults as to the reactions that they can cause on the skin", she said.
And while his isn't a common problem, Dr Dingle's research suggests we all should be concerned. "They get into the cells, they get into the blood -- we know they do, we've monitored them in the blood, we've monitored them in the urine, in breast cells and so on and these chemicals are linked with lots of things from causing puberty in young children right through to breast cancer in young women. They're called foreign oestragens and the science on this is showing these are incredibly toxic", Dr. Dingle said.
But the Cancer Council says sunscreen is rigorously tested within Australia before it goes on the market. "There is an Australian standard for sunscreen which all sunscreens sold in Australia must meet. It also must meet the Therapeutic Goods Administration Guidelines and they're from the Australian Government", they said.
But Dr Dingle says that's the problem -- the standards aren't good enough. "What's really interesting with some of these toxic ingredients, some of them have actually been banned or severely regulated in other countries. There is one PABA that you can use up to 15% in Australia, in Europe you can use 5% and in half a dozen countries around the world for example Denmark it's banned", Dr. Dingle said.
He says there's a simple solution. "What you want to look for is a safer brand that has low toxicity products, resembles food, it lists all the ingredients and preferably organic", he said.
Of which there are few on the market. "Sunclear is an all natural suncream", said Brisbane entrepreneur, Geoff Graham, who makes Sunclear "It's SPF 30+, it's 2 hour water resistant., it's UV-A & UV-B broad spectrum", Geoff said.
Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen is another sunblock that doesn't use chemical UV absorbers. But Geoff says his product Sunclear is taking off, particularly for people with sensitive skin.
Unfortunately while these chemical based suncreams comply with Australian standards, its unlikely there's going to be any change soon. "I suppose what I'm trying to do here is move those big organizations who are using all the chemicals, to move towards safer chemicals", Dr. Dingle said.
He believes there no reason why all suncreens can't be free of these potentially dangerous sunscreens.
DOWN TO EARTH ORGANICS
(Kim Rixon uses "Down to Earth" organics on her son Cody)
Shop 1-98 Marine Pd, Kingscliff. NSW.
Call - 1800 855 108
Skin Elements Pty Ltd
Address: 34 Ord Street, West Perth, Western Australia,
Telephone: 1 300 663 780 or (+61) 8 9486 4792
Fax: (+61) 8 9486 4793
GRAHAM'S NATURAL ALTERNATIVES
P.O. Box 4005.. Ashmore. QLD
(07) 5596 1708