Greens’ “Skin-Deep” Science on Sunscreen

It’s summer and, not surprisingly, environmental activists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are publishing summer-themed scare reports. This year, they “update” their a prior claim that sunscreens cause cancer. Specifically, they attack vitamin A, which is listed as retinyl palmitate in the EWG “Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.”

EWG bases it claim largely on a federal National Toxicology Panel draft report that cites a handful of rodent studies and mixed research on humans as to both benefits and potential risks. The NTP report also noted on page 165: “[T]he topical application of RP [Retinyl Palmitate] to human skin appears safe at the recommended cosmetic concentrations.”

Ironically, if people trust EWG about the need to avoid sunscreens because they saw headlines on EWG’s report, they may actually face increased cancer risks. And unlike EWG’s skin-deep science, there is considerable evidence that overexposure to the sun causes skin cancer. In fact, it is the leading cause of skin cancer.

Despite this reality, EWG pursues this incredibly irresponsible campaign attacking sunscreens. The Skin Cancer Foundation has weighed in:

After reviewing the recently released report from The Environmental Working Group, The Skin Cancer Foundation’s renowned experts  have come to the conclusion that there is no scientific evidence to support claims that retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) is a photocarcinogen in humans.

Dermatologists expressed similar views in The New York Times during 2008.  The Foundation’s comments on EWG’s latest stunt can be found in the news section of their website. A search on the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website pulls up a list of their many refutations of EWG hype.

For more information on EWG’s scare tactics related to cosmetics see my article on Pajamas Media.