Occupational Health Watch: July 2021
Summer is Here: Safer Protection Against the Sun
As covered in our June Occupational Health Watch issue, the summer months can be dangerous for people who work outside due to heat-related illness. Other summer concerns for workers and their employers are sunburn and skin cancer. Sunscreen is one tool for preventing injury and disease, but users should be aware that sunscreen products on the market have various active ingredients with different levels of effectiveness and may contain potentially harmful chemicals.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposed rule in February 2019 recognizing two sunscreen ingredients as safe and effective--zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The rule proposed that 12 other active ingredients commonly found in sunscreens need further testing before they can be recognized as safe and effective. One of the ingredients proposed for safety testing, oxybenzone, can be absorbed through the skin and is a potential endocrine disruptor, which means it can interfere with the body's hormones and may be particularly harmful for younger people. The rule also proposed testing spray and powder sunscreens to ensure they cannot be inhaled deeply into the lungs.
You can search to see if your sunscreen or other personal care products contain ingredients linked to cancer or reproductive harm on CDPH's California Safe Cosmetics Product Database.
Workers can also protect their skin using broad-brimmed hats, long sleeves and pants, and shade. Per the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standard, employers are required to provide sufficient access to shade in hot weather or upon request at any time.
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A woman uses long sleeves and a hat to protect from the sun.
Sunscreen Recall Alert:
July 14, 2021, the FDA announced that Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. issued a voluntary recall of its Neutrogena and Aveeno brand aerosol spray sunscreens that are contaminated with benzene, a known human carcinogen. For more information, visit the FDA website.