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Are Sunscreens Safe for Kids?

Q. I recently read that some sunscreens contain hormones that might affect young children. I am an avid user of sunscreen. I’m concerned about any adverse effects on my children, especially my 9-year-old daughter.

What specific ingredient should I be avoiding? When I called the company they said they never heard of hormones in sunscreen. I do not want hormones absorbing through my skin or especially the skin of my 9 year old.

A. As far as we can tell there are no hormones added to sunscreens. There are, however, chemicals in some sunscreens that may have estrogenic activity, particularly when they are combined (Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Nov. 2006).

No one knows if this poses a risk for you or your children. If you wish to avoid such compounds in sunscreen, look for brands that contain physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. According to research published in The Lancet (online May 3, 2007), such ingredients are safe for children and highly effective at preventing sun damage from both UVA and UVB radiation.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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