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Top 10 ways to protect your precious grandchildren from harmful UV/UVB rays

Sun time, sun time, fun in the sun summertime…what a glorious time of year for young and old. With the sun and goldeny bronzed looks, however, also comes high risk of skin cancer if you’re not careful.

Protection. Protection. Protection.

With Camp Grammy in session, grandparents must be ever-watchful. When the grandkids come to play, one of the most important things a grandparent can do is ensure that the kids are protected from the sun at all times. This means more than a dab of sunscreen.

Sunscreen Protection

For more than 30 years, consumers have benefited from the use of sunscreen products to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun, including sun burn, premature skin aging, certain types of skin cancer, and other harmful effects of the sun. And worldwide, there is an extensive body of scientific research that demonstrates that, overall, these sunscreen products are safe and effective.

More Americans than ever are using sunscreen to protect from sunburn and guard against skin cancer. Top choices include products with high SPF ratings, and that are waterproof or that advertise "broad spectrum" protection. Most people trust that the claims on the bottle will ensure that the product truly protects their health and their families'. It seems, however, that claims are highly overrated and often misleading.

According to EWG (Environmental Working Group), did you know?

  • More than a million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, and the incidence of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of the disease, is escalating.
  • UV rays damage the skin and can cause skin cancer or wrinkles.
  • Sunscreens are a critical part of public health protection.
  • The U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to products that work and are safe.
  • 5% of high SPF products (SPF 30 and higher) have poor UVA protection and 3 out of 5 sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients with significant safety concerns.
  • More expensive products are not necessarily better. In fact, leading brands are often the worst offenders.
  • Waterproof sunscreen protects you from the sun for up to 80 minutes in water. water-resistant means you will only get 40 minutes of protection.
  • 46% of sunscreens bear claims that the FDA considers unacceptable or indicative of a misbranded product. Due to the over-the-top marketing claims — many products would be misbranded if FDA finalized sunscreen standards.
  • In 2009, 19% fewer sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor approved by FDA as an active ingredient in sunscreen. (That’s a good thing, as this ingredient has been found to be harmful in some instances.and the industry's shift away from the chemical may indicate their recognition of the risks inherent in a hormone-disrupting chemical that readily absorbs through human skin.)

The Top 10 ways to protect your precious grandchildren and yourself from harmful UV/UVB rays and risk of getting skin safety hazards and cancer include:

1, Always buy a product that has SPF 30 or higher and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

2. Wear protective clothing – this may include visors, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses.

3. Limit outdoor activities between 10:00 a.m. - 4 p.m. when exposure to UVA/UVB rays is the highest.

4. Apply 30 minutes before going outside, and re-apply every 2 hours or right after swimming, toweling off, sweating, or strenuous exercise.

5. Apply a thick, even layer over all exposed skin. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to sensitive and hard-to-reach areas, including ears, feet, face, scalp, and lips, being careful to avoid eyes and eyelids. (The products are tested safe and won’t cause blindness, but will irritate if they get in the eyes.)

6. Sunscreens should never be used past their expiration date. They might become less effective. Discard any unused sunscreen at the end of the year and buy a new product.

7. Beware of marketing ploys designed to mislead consumers by claiming to be something they can’t possibly be. Avoid products that use terms like "chemical-free," "non-chemical," "help prevent skin damage," as well as terms like "sunblock," "reflects," "shields," "protects," "filters," "screens," "sun's rays," "sun's harmful rays," "sand-proof," "all day" protection, "instant protection" or "as mild as water," and all SPF designations greater than 50.

8. Some medications can make you burn easier than you normally would. Check with your doctor to ensure that the sun and your medicine are a safe combination.

9. Always read the labels and avoid purchasing products containing oxybenzone.

10. The only sure-fire way to protect your skin is to stay out of the sun. (This is easy enough for Clevelanders in the winter, but come on – it’s summer!) Go outside and enjoy – but use all the protections you can and most of all, consumers beware.

For more information and resources check out:

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2007. SunWise Program: Health effects of overexposure to the sun.

FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). 2007. The darker side of tanning. CDRH Consumer Information. Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Accessed June 11, 2007.

FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). 2007. Rulemaking History for OTC Sunscreen Drug Products.

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