Archive for March, 2011

How to choose sunscreen

Posted on: March 30th, 2011 by admin No Comments

Many of you are just back from the beach for Spring Break. You have an entire spring of sports and summer at the pool ahead of you slathering sunscreen on you and your family. But what sunscreens are you planning on using? That’s what we would like you to think about. What is in your sunscreen? We ask that you consider several things in selecting products. First of all, how effective are the sun blocking ingredient in your sunscreen? Well, the most effective and least harmful sun blocking ingredients are the mineral or physical blockers titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They block most of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays – remember that the term SPF only refers to UVB rays so you need to be careful to look for ingredients that block damaging UVA rays as well. Look for a sunscreen that says “broad spectrum”. Secondly, how harmful are the ingredients in the sunscreen? You should try to avoid the chemical sun blockers like oxybenzone as they have cancer causing agents and may act as hormone disruptors. Does the sunscreen contain parabens? Parabens are known cancer-causing agents and should be avoided whenever possible. Look for words like ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben on the ingredient list.

There are several rules of thumb when choosing a product. Just because a product says it’s for sensitive skin or is a baby formula does not mean that it may not still be harmful. We looked up Coppertone Water Babies Quick Cover lotion with SPF 50 and according to the Environmental Working Group the safety rating was 7 out of 10, with 10 being the worst. It contained the chemical blocker oxybenzone which should be avoided especially on children. Furthermore, just because an SPF has a higher number does not mean it is better or safer for you. The EWG says that SPFs higher than 50 don’t typically give you significantly higher sun protection and are usually loaded with sun blocking chemicals which can cause tissue damage and hormone disruption. Antioxidants added to the sunscreen don’t necessarily mean the sunscreen is better; data from an FDA study suggests that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions. Most importantly, spray sunscreens are dangerous because of the inhalation of nano-sized particles. The cans are typically loaded with chemicals and are usually rated poorly for safety.

In a nutshell, according to the Environmental Working Group, among the sun blocking ingredients with the lowest risk (but not necessarily broad spectrum protection) are avobenzone, mexoryl SX, and octisalate. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are broad-spectrum, are of medium risk but since they do not seem to get absorbed into the bloodstream the EWG considers them relatively safe. Oxybenzone and 4-MBC on the other hand are considered high risk and easily absorbable into the skin. They should not be used on children due to their known allergic reactions and hormone disruption properties. Always apply more sunscreen than you think you need. Studies show that people often use 1/5 the needed amount to provide the indicated sun protection. Please keep these tips in mind when looking for sunscreens throughout summer. Some of our favorites are Elta MD’s facial sunscreens (the ones with moisturizer apply well under makeup) and many of which are paraben-free, and Jason Naturals Sunbrellas 30. Kiss My Face Face Factor 30 rates well, as do most Jason Natural, Badger, Nature’s Gate and Alba Botanica sunblocks. We also like Aveda and Tarte tinted moisturizers with SPF since they are free of parabens, phthalates and petrochemicals. For a pharmacy run, we found Johnson and Johnson baby sunscreen lotion SPF 40 rated as one of EWG’s best rated sunscreens! We encourage you to look up your favorite products on the Environmental Working Group’s website to be sure they are safe and provide broad-spectrum protection: The EWG’s sunscreen guide is also extremely helpful:

Easy Biscuits

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by admin No Comments

A friend made these biscuits for us and they are fabulous! They can be frozen and are delicious with soup, meat or even for breakfast. This recipe is adapted from a recipe that was featured in Coastal Living in which our friend paired down the butter and substituted Greek yogurt for sour cream. You can even mix in chives for a different flavor.

Easy Biscuits
2 cups self-rising flour
8-9 ounces Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Stir together all ingredients just until blended. Spoon batter into lightly greased miniature muffin pans, filling to the top. You can also make these as drop biscuits on parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly brown, and serve warm. Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

Is Chromium-6 in your water?

Posted on: March 3rd, 2011 by admin No Comments

Have you seen the movie Erin Brokovich? It is a true story about a woman who exposes a chemical company that is accused of polluting the tap water supply of a small California community. Many members of the community developed cancer as a result of the chemical contamination by a known carcinogen called hexavalent chromium or chromium-6. Well, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit public health organization, recently found that the water supply of 31 out of 35 American cities contain hexavalent chromium. The EWG estimates that more than 74 million Americans in 42 states drink this contaminated water on a regular basis. California has proposed a stricter limit on hexavalent chromium in the water in hopes that a limit would also be set across the nation. Thus far, the EPA has not taken action about setting legal limits in the water nor are water utility companies required to test for chromium. Scary! The EPA is in the process of evaluating chromium’s risk and has stated that it will make a decision upon project completion by the end of the year as to whether new safety standards need to be set. In the meanwhile, the EPA is offering guidance to cities that are voluntarily testing their water for chromium and providing assistance to those cities found in the recent EWG study to have high levels of chromium-6 in their water.

Dr. Oz did a show a couple weeks ago called “Is our water causing cancer?” One of the three chemicals he is most concerned about is chromium-6. He suggested that consumers use water filter containers (like Brita), filtering systems for kitchen faucets, or entire home filtering systems. He was not a proponent of bottled water since it is not regulated. The reality is that there are many unknown chemicals lurking in our tap water so we need to stay informed. We did find that Birmingham’s water was tested in 2008 for chromium-6 and no contaminant was detected. To read the EWG’s full report and see your area’s contaminant level, go to: