Thursday, July 28, 2011

Safe Fun in the Sun Redux

While records were being broken in my region last week, most people were hunkering down in the A/C whenever they could.

The temperature last Friday in NYC — 104° — was the highest ever on that date, breaking a record set in 1957. In Boston, the 103° temperature matched the July 22 record reached in 1926. Some 35 miles from here, the day’s 103° temperature was the hottest ever recorded in the greater Hartford area.
As if these temperatures weren’t bad enough, the problems with the heat were compounded by high humidity, leading to extraordinarily high heat indexes. In short, the heat index is a measure of how hot it really feels once you factor in the humidity. This site explains what the Heat Index is and how the formula is derived, provides a Heat Index Calculator, and includes a chart indicating how dangerous it is for almost anyone whenever it is over 90° and even the least bit humid. It was very humid during the heat wave of last week. In some places it felt like 107°

We are enjoying a bit of a respite here (although Saturday may be another doozie as my Dad used to say), and nature lovers and those with cabin fever are venturing out once again. I’m hoping for an afternoon at Hammonasset State Park one day soon. 

It’s only been about a month since the Summer Solstice. When the sun is shining, its rays are still pretty direct (i.e. strong) in our part of the world. Check out this interactive graphic to watch how this changes throughout the year.  Early last Summer I wrote a popular post on tips for Safe Fun in the Sun to help you prepare for the season. Most of what it contains still holds true, but there is some updated info on sunscreens which I’d like to pass on to you.

First up:
The 2011 Environmental Working Group Sunscreen Guide was released late in June. 

Over the past year I have become a big fan of GoodGuide. GoodGuide rates products for Health (of the consumer), Environment (how environmentally friendly the company is), and Society (how the company stands on labor and human rights) on a scale of 1-10. You can read more here. You can currently browse over 115,000 products for their ratings. Each category is also broken down into “Top Rated” and “Bottom Rated” for a quick read.

GoodGuide was founded in 2007 by Dara O'Rourke, a professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Chief Scientist is Bill Pease, an expert in chemical risk assessment and creator of the pollution information resource,, which allows the user to find the biggest polluters in his or her community by entering a zipcode.

GoodGuide is available as a free app for both Android and Apple phones. We gave it a try in a CVS while on vacation when our sunscreen ran low. Use the phone’s camera to scan the barcode of a product in which you are interested, and if it is in the GoodGuide database, you will instantly get the rating.  We learned that the tube of Burt’s Bees sunscreen I had picked off the shelf was rated 7.8 overall (8.0 for health, 8.1 for environment, and 7.3 for society), placing it in the top 15, and the only product on the list actually in the store. We bought it.

GoodGuide is adding more products everyday. If the one you scanned is not yet rated, search GoodGuide by category for a list of similar products in the database, and then check the list against what’s in stock on the store shelves to see what your choices are. If you don’t find what you are looking for, be sure to send GoodGuide a rating request.

That wraps up what I have on sunscreens. Check out my earlier post for advice on hats and the best time of day to stay indoors.

Please protect Yourself. Skin cancer is on the rise; there are now over one million cases diagnosed each year. It can be deadly. But you can also lower your risk by following some or all of this pretty simple advice. Whatever you do, stay away from tanning beds

Wishing you good weather and fun times in the remaining days of Summer… 

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