Interesting Information: Warning: Most Sun Screens Do NOT Prevent Skin-Damaging Radiation

Interesting Information:  July 28, 2014

Warning:  Most Sun Screens Do NOT Prevent Skin-Damaging Radiation


I drove up to Belfast this morning in Pea Soup Fog to shop at the Coop.  I retain my fascination with the mystery and softness of a dense Pea Soup Fog.  With this one, I could only see about 100 feet in front of the car.

On the way home, it rained buckets–a real gully washer.  Reynolds insisted on getting into my lap and hiding her head under my left arm.  The parking lot at Hannaford’s, where I stopped to get some cleaning supplies not available at the Belfast COOP (which immediately tells me something about those supplies), was wheel-high gushing water in its low spot.  Mercy!

But, on the way home, the noon Maine NPR station was discussing sunburn and sunblocks.  The guest “expert” was from the Environmental Working Group–which is more or less solid I think.  I do have some problems with the EWG.

Coincidentally, Dr. Joseph Mercola had sent out recently a post on sunblocks and sun protection, and the need for balance in that we get vitamin D from sun shining on our skin.

Here’s the thing I did not know until I read this post:  Sun Screens DO NOT protect your skin from UVA rays, and they are the ones that damage your skin and set into place the potential for skin cancers.

Here’s the explanation from Mercola’s post:


UVAs versus UVBs

So, how can you get the benefits without raising your risk for skin damage? It’s important to remember that the sun can either be helpful or harmful depending on what type of ultraviolet light you’re getting. The ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) Considered the unhealthy wavelength because it penetrates your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage. Sunblocks containing SPF filter out the beneficial UVB, not these cancer-causing UVAs, unless they also contain a UVA blocking ingredient.
  • As a result, wearing sunscreen may prevent you from burning, as excessive UVBs are the chief cause of sunburn, but you still receive a large amount of skin-damaging radiation. Moreover, UVA rays are constantly available, even on cloudy days.  There are likely some benefits to UVA in moderation that we do not fully understand, as there appears to be with many spectrums emitted from the sun.
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) – This is the ‘healthy’ wavelength that helps your skin produce vitamin D. While both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, UVB does so far more rapidly.
  • Contrary to UVAs, which are more readily available, UVB rays are low in morning and evening, and high at midday or solar noon, making this the most optimal time for vitamin D production (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.). Ironically, this is the timeframe most mainstream experts warn you to stay out of the sun.

How to Prevent and Treat Sunburn Naturally.

Mercola goes on to discuss healthy sun-exposure practices–the most important of which is to GET OUT OF THE SUN AFTER 10 OR SO MINUTES OF EXPOSURE IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY!!!

When I was growing up, our days at the beach were so special–it was time we all looked forward to all year.  We went to the beach around 10 a.m. and left just before noon.  We returned around 3:30 or 4:00 until, sometimes, close to dark.  WE NEVER LAY IN THE SUN AND “SUNNED” OURSELVES.  And we got plenty tanned.  We spent our time at the beach swimming, riding waves, and walking the tidal edge looking for shells.  

You know, in other eras, people protected their skin from the sun.  Today we equate a tan with health.

I don’t use sun blocks of any kind any longer–and we never did as children.  There is a strong correlation between today’s heavy use of the chemicals in sun blocks and cancer.  And, science has shown that many of the chemicals in sun blocks are dangerous.  The Environmental Working Group has lists of which sun screens are better than others.  And the speaker today kept emphasizing to RUB IN the chemicals so they are effective, that NO SUNBLOCK protects when washed away with water, and that the spray sunblocks are being investigated by the FDA on a number of accounts.  (Users don’t want to get their fingers “dirty” while rubbing in sunblocks–which is the height of…what???…misguidedness, at the very least.)

Here are the “rules” from my childhood–you know, that time when no one had heard the word “cancer”–leave the beach by noon, don’t go back until late afternoon, wear a hat when out of the water, on really hot days wear an old t-shirt to swim, and protect your skin from the sun in the heat of the day with long-sleeved shirts, yes, but seek out the shade in the heat of the day.  Truthfully, after a morning of riding waves and a hearty lunch, an hour or two reading or playing games was a nice change.  Even the hardier types often fell into naps–which was relaxing and enabled staying up very late at night to enjoy a beach fire or chasing ghost crabs at the edge of the dunes.

Interesting Information: EWG’s Dirty Dozen

Interesting Information:  July 8, 2010

The Environmental Working Group’s

Dirty Dozen List

The EWG’s guide to Pesticides in Produce now lists the following produce, in order of toxicity:  apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, and kale/collard greens.  See

The EWG also warns that the commodity corn crop used for animal feed and biofuels is “almost all produced with genetically modified (GMO) seeds, as is some sweet corn sold for human consumption.”  The sweet corn IS NOT LABELED as GMO in U.S. stores, thanks to our lax and corrupt government oversight agencies.

Both the EWG and NUTRITION ACTION newsletter make the case–as the EWG puts it–that “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

I DISAGREE strongly.

First, the 2009 President’s Cancer Panel report–easily available for you to read online–is very clear that the use of toxic chemicals on our food and in our environment is the cause of much of the cancer epidemic we are experiencing.  I, for one, am really tired of losing so many beloveds to cancer.  When I was a young woman, cancers and heart disease were rare.

Second, more and more data is coming out now that our heavy use of carbs is causing hormonal disorders that are, in turn, causing obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.  So, a diet rich in produce is likely not be a good thing at all.

Third, our digestive tract does not handle lots of cellulose well.  We do not have the multiple stomachs, digestive chemicals, and so forth to handle so many fruits and vegetables–especially many of the raw ones.  Our digestive tract is set up to eat the animals that do process cellulose well.

(I’ve written about these issues in my Tipping Points essays here on this blog–and will continue to do so.)

I really wish EWG and organizations like it would step up to the plate and start taking a stand that incorporates good science–which would include the information that shows how seriously toxic the chemicals we use on our FOODs are.   Their unscientific repetition of the low-fat, high-carb, calorie in/out belief system is doing a lot of harm, which I suspect is not what they want to accomplish.

Finally, what you can do is to try to find local sources of organic foods.  It’s going to be a bit like “build it and they will come.”  Ask your local farmers to raise this food for you.  Go to farmers’ markets to find them.  Go out into the country and find them.  Plant a garden and raise some of your own food–even it’s only one tomato plant in a bucket.  And, try to eat foods in their seasons and to put them up in some way (canning, freezing) if you want to continue to enjoy them.  You can’t possibly know what’s been done to food raised outside of this country–even if it’s labeled “organic.”  (Take a look at the documentary OUR DAILY BREAD, for instance.)

What you can do is to stop giving your beloveds food that has poison on it and in it.  What you can do is to stop telling yourself that someone else is going to protect you and your beloveds–someone like the government.  It hasn’t.  It won’t.  What you can do is to face squarely the fact that these chemicals are killers and that they will kill you and your beloveds.  The cancer statistics are ample proof of that truth.  These chemicals are especially destructive to your babies, to your children, to teenagers–because they are still growing so fast.  No amount of these chemicals is safe.

Nothing is going to change until we all band together and say “No, we’re not doing it any more.  Give us good food, raised locally and organically, so that it has all the nutrients it should.”

Believe me, whatever money you think you’re saving by buying cheap food can get eaten up in a heartbeat with a cancer patient.  Few people understand the massive resources it takes to manage a cancer patient…

Assess what you can give up in your life to be able to find and pay for good food.  In the end, the time and money will be worth it.

Mainely Tipping Points 26: Strawberries in Winter

Mainely Tipping Points 26:  Strawberries in Winter


 It’s February, and in Maine, it’s bitter cold more often than not. We seek out heat and the warmth of the fiery color red.  Not surprisingly, along comes St. Valentine’s Day on the 14th—a day set by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD to honor the martyred Roman Valentine, killed in 269 AD.  This once-Christian holiday was likely overlaid onto a Roman mid-February pagan fertility celebration marking the beginning of spring and of the year’s agricultural calendar.  The associative color red possibly derived from the use of sacrificial blood during the festivities.   

Many of us are longing for spring, and in these mid-February days, along come red, luscious looking strawberries.  These early heralds of “come spring” fruit are shipped to us here in the frozen north mostly from California, which grows “roughly 90 percent of all strawberries sold in the United States” (“Death by Strawberries,” weekly, Nov. 29-December 6, 2010, 

The idea of chocolate-covered strawberries makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?  They’re the ultimate dessert for lovers in February.  But, before you eat them or feed them to your loved ones, consider some cautions.

First, industrially raised strawberries come to you drenched with toxic chemical residues.  Second, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) notes in its “dirty dozen” handout that rinsing “reduces but does not eliminate pesticides” (  And, third, the 2008-2009 Annual Report of the ,President’s Cancer Panel links exposure to pesticides (including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) and fertilizers with the formation of cancer in humans.  The report notes that parental exposure to pesticides can impact children prior to conception, in utero, and during childhood (43). 

Strawberries are ranked third on the EWG’s 2010 Dirty Dozen list, which is formed after residue testing is completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  EWG’s rankings reflect at least six factors, including the total amount of pesticide residues found  and the total amount of different pesticides used. 

Will Allen, in THE WAR ON BUGS (2008), notes that between 2000 and 2005, 97.3 percent of nectarines had pesticide residues, followed by 96.6 percent of peaches and 93.6 percent of apples.  Strawberries ranked fourth.  Peaches and apples, writes Allen, had up to 9 pesticides on a single fruit, and strawberries had up to 8 pesticides on single berries.  Apples had the most residues of all with up to 50 pesticides found on samples.  Strawberries had up to 38 pesticides (242). 

Allen also cautions that very few states have mandatory pesticide use reporting, so there is massive underreporting of the amount of pesticides on our food.  Because California does have a reporting requirement, Allen was able to determine that in 2004, California strawberry growers used just over 11 million pounds of pesticides on an estimated 33,200 acres, or 335.40 pounds per acre (243-244).

In 2004, notes Allen, strawberry growers in California used 184 different pesticides.  But, 80.6 percent of these pesticides were confined to six chemicals.  Four of these six chemicals accounted for 74.1 percent of use and are fumigants “designed to kill all soil life and are among the most dangerous pesticides.”  These four fumigants amounted to about 249 pounds per acre of use. 

Among these four fumigants is methyl bromide, or bromomethane, which was banned in 1987 by the Montreal Protocol because it depletes the ozone layer around earth.  In total, 196 states have ratified this international treaty; President Reagan signed it in 1987.

Yet, twenty-four years later, our government is still allowing strawberry growers, principally in California and Florida, to use methyl bromide under “critical use” exemptions.   According to Wikipedia, in 2004, over 7 million pounds of bromomethane were applied in California on tomatoes and strawberries, in ornamental shrub nurseries, and for the fumigation of ham/pork products” (  The EPA is now accepting 2011 applications for 15 crops, to include “tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, cucurbits, orchard replants, and post-harvest uses ( 

According to the EPA, methyl bromide is “highly toxic,” especially for application workers.  Further, the EPA acknowledges that breathing it damages the lungs.  And, once inside the body, it can have a devastating neurological impact and can impact the thyroid and the male testes, which affects reproduction.  And guess what?  Though methyl bromide has been used agriculturally since the 1930s and though it has always been recognized as being highly toxic, the EPA doesn’t know whether or not it causes cancer ( 

Indeed, the President’s Cancer Panel notes that “approximately 40 chemicals classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known, probably, or possible human carcinogens, are used in EPA-registered pesticides now on the market” (45). 

Allen notes the following:  “Methyl bromide…causes mutations, tumors, and monstrous birth defects.  It is incredibly lethal in very small doses:  consequently very few of its victims survive.  Unlike the case for many other chemicals, pest resistance to methyl bromide has been low, with only a dozen or so organisms that have shown any tolerance to it after almost seventy years of continuous exposure.  This lack of resistance is clearly due to the fact that the chemical kills almost all of the members of a population and leaves few if any resistant survivors” (234). 

Allen demonstrates in THE WAR ON BUGS how the chemical industry replaces a discredited chemical with a new, largely untested chemical.  The EPA approved the fumigant methyl iodide, or iodomethane, in 2007 at 193 parts per billion (ppb).  At the time, fifty-four academic scientists and physicians, among them six Nobel laureates, wrote the EPA and asked for the chemical to be banned ((Jill U. Adams, “A Closer Look:  Pesticides in strawberry fields,” June 28, 2010, The Los Angeles Times,; and “Death by Strawberries”).    

On December 20, 2010, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) approved methyl iodide for use in strawberry fields, despite the fact that the eight-person independent scientific review panel the DPR appointed to review the chemical declared that it is highly toxic, that its use would expose large numbers of the public, and that it would be difficult to control” (Pesticide Action Network Action Alert, “Because PR can’t trump science, if you speak up,”  Additionally, methyl iodide is listed under California’s Proposition 65 as a carcinogen ((Julie Cart, “Farmworkers challenge approval of methyl iodide on strawberry fields,” The Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2011,  The panel noted that methyl iodide can alter DNA and can contaminate groundwater.  And, the panel cautioned that the lack of research on the chemical should give the DPR pause and that tests on animals link methyl iodide to miscarriages, cognitive impairment and thyroid toxicity (Cart).   

The California DPR mandated 96 ppb, which is more than either the risk assessment scientists within the DPR or the panel recommended.  The DPR scientists settled on 0.8 ppb, and panel member Edward Loechler, a molecular biologist at Brandeis University in Boston, said “we all thought, if anything, it should be lower.”  Panel member Dr. Paul Blanc, head of the occupational and environmental medicine division at UC San Francisco said, “that’s not policy—that’s meddling with the science” (Adams). 

Adams noted that Susan Kegley, who consults for The Pesticide Action Network (PAN), pointed to a study released in June about the air in Sisquoc, California.  Levels of chloropicrine, a soil fumigant, were higher than either the EPA or the California DPR consider safe.  (Treated fields are covered immediately with tarps.) Kegley noted that the same thing could happen with methyl iodide. 

Shortly after the California DPR’s ruling, a group of environmental and community health organizations, representing agricultural workers, challenged the ruling in court on the grounds that it violates, among other laws, the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Birth Defects Prevention Act, and the Pesticide Contamination Prevention Act (Cart).

Strawberries, like all industrial monocrop cultures, are grown in sterile, toxic soil; are lacking nutrients; and will continue to require increasingly heavier toxic chemical loads. It is becoming abundantly clear that commerce has corrupted science and our regulatory mechanisms so that permitted chemical levels are harming humans—which is why the President’s Cancer Panel Report recommends reducing exposure to pesticides by choosing “food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.”

Our own, local, organic strawberries, available in June and for most of the summer, seem more than worth the wait.