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On the Green Road: The Sneaky Sun

2008 June 27

About the author: While Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoys vacation, he’s sending along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

Aloha from sunny Hawaii! Like Karen Reshkin a few weeks ago, I’ll be sending a few entries from vacation back to the office.

humorous drawing of a bottle of SPF 50 million sun screen\Several years ago, I worked for the SunWise Schools program, so I know all about sun safety, from applying (and re-applying) sunscreen to wearing long- sleeve shirts, and even staying out of the sun during the middle of the day. And I know that the strongest sun occurs on the summer solstice (last week), when there are no clouds, at low latitudes and at high altitudes. Add in no recent exposure, and my wife and I have the perfect setup for major sunburn.

So when we went up Haleakala on Maui, we knew we needed to be very careful. We put on SPF 50 sunscreen that blocked both UVA and UVB, and we wore jeans, long-sleeve t-shirts, and hats with big brims (it’s only in the 60s at 10,000 feet).

For snorkeling the next day, we slopped on SPF 60, which was so thick it took several squirts to cover everything. And we wore shirts in the water.

The result? Sunburned faces. We couldn’t believe it until we realized:
1) we hadn’t been burnt at all after the mountain, so it wasn’t that trip.
2) our faces were in the water and the backs of our legs weren’t burnt, so it wasn’t snorkeling.

But we did stand outside in line for breakfast for 45 minutes from 9:30-10:15. Bingo! It’s not only the activities we know will burn us, but being outside here anytime.

So enjoy yourselves outdoors this summer, but follow the SunWise actions steps no matter what you’re doing.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Lina permalink
    June 27, 2008

    Yes, good old Mr. Sun is relentless. Glad to hear your enjoying Hawaiian vacation. How are the coquíes?
    Aloha

  2. Lisa permalink
    July 7, 2008

    I just read an article that describes how sunscreens are contributing to pollution in our waters and can cause damage to coral reefs. Four chemicals commonly found in most sunscreen products (parabens, cinnamates, benzophenones, and camphor) can cause coral reef bleaching. Hopefully, you used an eco-friendly sunscreen that does not contain these chemicals. Otherwise, by slopping on all of that SPF you were probably damaging the very thing you were there to admire.

  3. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    July 14, 2008

    Hmm. I doubt our sunscreen was eco-safe. Wish I’d known before we went. Can you post a link to the article?

  4. Lisa permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Here’s the link to the article:

    http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2008/jan/science/bw_sunscreen.html?sa_campaign=rss

    And here’s a link to the original research study:

    http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2008/10966/abstract.html

    Burt’s Bees makes a chemical-free sunscreen. Although I’ve never tried it, so this is not an endorsement of it.

    This is a relatively recent discovery, so maybe EPA can help raise awareness of this important issue.

  5. anne permalink
    August 3, 2010

    Burt’s Bees makes a chemical-free sunscreen. Although I’ve never tried it, so this is not an endorsement of it.

    This is a relatively recent discovery, so maybe EPA can help raise awareness of this important issue.

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