parents refuse vaccinationEven though the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends doctors continue to treat families who decline to get every government-recommended vaccine, some pediatricians have decided to "fire" patients who refuse vaccines -- essentially, telling them that they should seek treatment elsewhere.

"Vaccine-educated" and "vaccine-cautious" parents tend to ask lots of questions before deciding whether or not to vaccinate their kids, and pediatricians might do better to take the time to answer thoughtfully rather than "firing" them.

According to Time Magazine:

"In July, the Chicago Tribune chronicled the phenomenon of doctors severing ties with unvaccinated children, describing a letter that one eight-physician practice sent to its more than 5,000 patients, announcing they would no longer see children whose parents didn't follow the CDC-advised childhood immunization schedule. Fewer than a dozen families elected to leave the practice."

In other vaccine news, U.S. regulators at Merck's biggest vaccine-making plant identified charred bits of plastic shrink wrap have been found in vials of the vaccines. Merck said it isn't aware of any adverse health events associated with the problem.

Affected vaccines included Gardasil (for prevention of HPV infection), Varivax (for chicken pox), Pneumovax (for pneumococcal disease), Zostavax (for shingles), and MMR II (for measles, mumps, and rubella.)

According to Fox Business:

"In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a formal warning letter about deficiencies at Merck's West Point, [Pennsylvania] plant. Since then, FDA inspection reports have cited more problems: the presence of metal particles in certain products, cracks in vaccine vials and delays in Merck's reporting to the FDA of adverse events from products made at the plant."


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

It goes without saying that when you choose a physician, that physician is working for you. It is an oxymoron that a pediatrician is able to "fire" a patient; more accurately, you have a choice as to whom you trust to provide health care for you and your children.

So you can always FIRE your doctor. It is YOUR right and YOUR choice to take control of your health and your family's health and you should NEVER allow any doctor to interfere with that right. That said, there are reports of pediatricians ostracizing patients that disagree with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) one-size-fits-all vaccination schedule. Some pediatricians will even resist answering your vaccination questions or concerns.

I find it interesting, though, that one of the most salient points raised in the Time magazine article came not from the author but from her 4-year-old daughter, who asked after receiving five vaccines:

"Why I got to get shots to make me healthy?"

And therein lies a very powerful question ?

Vaccines do Not "Make" You Healthy

There is a misconception, one that is perpetuated by many pediatricians in the United States,that you need vaccines to stay well. No disease is caused by a "vaccine deficiency." In fact, in my recent article featuring the top secrets of people who never get sick, vaccination is nowhere to be found.


Because, ultimately, it is the state of your immune system that determines whether or not you get sick when you're exposed to an infectious disease. The keys to boosting your immune system into a "lean, mean, disease-fighting machine" lie in your lifestyle habits -- healthy food, stress relief, exercise, sleep, exposure to sunlight and so on. Artificially manipulating your immune system with a vaccine is not the same thing, nor does it produce the same desired disease-fighting result.

What is the Difference Between Natural and Vaccine-Induced Immunity?

Many still believe vaccines provide the same kind of immunity as is provided when you naturally heal from an infection, and this widespread misconception needs to be corrected.

The presumed result of a vaccination is to help you build immunity to potentially harmful organisms that cause disease. Now, your body's immune system is already designed to do this in response to infectious organisms that you are exposed to naturally. One major difference between vaccine-induced immunity and natural immunity stems from how you're exposed to these organisms.

Most disease-causing organisms enter your body through the mucous membranes of your nose, mouth, lungs or your digestive tract.

These mucous membranes have their own immune system, called the secretory IgA immune system. It is a different system from the one activated when a vaccine is injected into your body. Your IgA immune system is your body's first line of defense and its job is to deal with infectious microorganisms at their exposure points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body's entire immune system.

However, when a lab-altered infectious microorganism is injected into your body in a vaccine, and especially when combined with an immune adjuvant, such as aluminum, your IgA immune system is bypassed, stimulating your immune system to mount a very strong inflammatory response. Vaccines can also trigger such a strong inflammatory response that the inflammation becomes chronic and leads to chronic illness or disability. (People with a personal or family history of severe allergy or autoimmunity should be cautious about vaccination because they already have a genetic predisposition to inflammatory responses that do not resolve and can lead to chronic health problems.)

Injecting these lab-altered microorganisms into your body to provoke an atypical, temporary immunity is clearly not the same way your body develops a naturally acquired type of immunity. Your immune system simply was not designed to be injected with lab altered disease-causing organisms in this manner. This is one reason why vaccines almost always only provide temporary, not permanent, immunity. Additionally, this plays a large role in why vaccines have the potential to do serious damage to your health.

Since vaccines bypass your natural first-line defense (your lgA immune system), they are never 100 percent protective because they provide only temporary, typically inferior immunity compared to that your body would acquire by experiencing and healing from the natural disease.

Why More Parents are Asking Questions about Vaccines

It cannot be disputed that vaccines carry health risks and do not guarantee protection against contracting infectious disease. Here are but a few examples that I've covered in previous articles:

  • Vaccinating all children against chickenpox can increase the risk of adult shingles. Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful blistering rash that is potentially dangerous in the elderly. According to researchers at Britain's Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), while vaccination might save thousands of lives over time, thousands of elderly people may also suffer the painful effects of shingles and even die prematurely from the complications of shingles.

    Interestingly enough, instead of reconsidering the strategy of vaccinating all children to prevent their exposure to a common childhood infection that is  harmless for 99.9 percent of children and protects adults from getting shingles, the pharmaceutical industry simply responded by creating a shingles vaccine for seniors. The shingles vaccine, according to some studies, has been shown to prevent shingles about half the time.
  • Of the children who contracted chickenpox in an outbreak in Maryland in 2001, 75 percent of the affected had been vaccinated against the disease.
  • Similarly, last year the US experienced the largest outbreak of mumps since 2006. More than 1,000 people in New Jersey and New York fell ill, yet 77 percent of those sickened were vaccinated against mumps.
  • In 2007, it became clear that the mass use by children of the vaccine, Prevnar, to prevent pneumoccocal disease that can cause meningitis and deadly bloodstream infections in young children, has unleashed a superbug that is resistant to all currently available drugs.
  • In the U.S., Prevnar vaccine was licensed in 2000 and has been given to infants in four shots between the age of 2 months and 15 months. The vaccine originally covered seven and now covers 13 of the 90-odd strains of the strep bacteria. Although pneumoccocal disease,caused by seven pneumoccoal strains in the 7- valent Prevnar vaccine, declined after  widespread use, one pneumoccocal strain called 19A developed super resistance and is now causing pneumoccocal disease that is antibiotic-resistant. In 2010, the FDA licensed a 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine to cover more strains, including 19A.
  • Certain vaccines have also been linked to a rise in type 1 diabetes in a number of studies. One such study, published in 2003, to further investigate this connection concluded that clusters of cases of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) may be linked to six different vaccines: the haemophilus influenza B (HIB), pertussis, MMR, and BCG vaccine. The authors stated:

    "The identification of clusters of cases of T1DM occurring in consistent temporal time periods allowed a link between the hemophilus vaccine and T1DM to be established. The current findings indicate the there are also clusters of cases of T1DM occurring 2-4 years post-immunization with the pertussis, MMR, and BCG vaccine. The data are consistent with the occurrence of clusters following mumps infection and the progression to T1DM in patients with antipancreatic autoantibodies."
  • In the late 1960's, an experimental vaccine in development, the RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccine killed two infants, and a staggering 80 percent of all children who received it were hospitalized with severe respiratory disease.

    A report issued eight years later concluded that the reason for this abysmal failure was because the children's antibodies did not bind to the inactivated virus to produce a protective immune response, meaning their immune system could not recognize the infectious invader. Instead, the dead virus circulated throughout their bodies, triggering a massive immune system attack.

Many Physicians do Not Want to Answer Your Vaccine Questions

Studies and occurrences like these certainly beg questions from vaccine-educated parents about safety and efficacy. However many physicians are reluctant to respond to them.

As more people become educated about vaccine side effects, they are demanding to take control of their health. This is a GREAT sign, as it means the more people are educating themselves, the more they are taking responsibility for making their own health care decisions.

In fact, according to a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, nearly 80 percent of pediatricians and family care physicians have at least one vaccine refusal a month, and 89 percent have at least one request a month to spread out the administration of vaccines over multiple visits.

The conclusion of the report, though, was that as parents become more aware of vaccine safety concerns, physicians are having to take more time discussing this at appointments. And this, the report found, was making their jobs "less satisfying," especially for pediatricians.

That's right, the study found that 46 percent of pediatricians reported their job was less satisfying because of parental vaccine concerns. After all, the study shows that about one in two doctors may spend up to 19 minutes on the topic with parents who have substantial concerns about vaccine safety.

The researchers actually concluded:

"The burden of communicating with parents about vaccines is high, especially among pediatricians. Physicians report the greatest success convincing skeptical parents using messages that rely on their personal choices and experiences."

In other words, since it's apparently simply too much trouble for pediatricians to address the valid concerns of parents AND because pediatricians do not have good answers for why so many highly vaccinated children are so sick, perhaps they shouldn't bother answering questions, or perhaps they should instill their own personal beliefs and vaccine risk denial onto patients in an effort to shut them up quickly.

FDA Finds Vaccine Plant Has Burnt Shrink Wrap in Vaccine Vials

Another excellent example of why you have every right to question the vaccines being offered to your children came from a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection report from April 2011 of Merck's biggest vaccine-making plant. The report found bits of charred plastic shrink wrap in vaccine vials -- and this was not a new or isolated occurrence.

According to Fox News, at least 12 reports have been submitted to the FDA from Merck regarding shrink wrap in vaccines since November 2009, and eight of these came from consumer complaints. The April report noted that the shrink wrap was reportedly not removed during a washing process and was then charred during a sterilization process. The agency also noted that health risks from the plastic in vaccines could not be ruled out.

Vaccine contamination such as this is a very real threat. Last year, a research team discovered that GlaxoSmithKline's Rotarix vaccine was contaminated with "a substantial amount" of DNA from a pig virus, and this was after 1 million U.S. children, and about 30 million worldwide, had already received it. At the same time, a measles vaccine was also found to contain low levels of the retrovirus avian leukosis virus, and Rotateq, Merck's rotavirus vaccine, was found to contain a virus similar to simian (monkey) retrovirus.

Are You Looking to Become Educated About Vaccines?

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is clearly the leading Internet resource, providing objective, unbiased information that you will need to make intelligent, informed decisions about which vaccines you may want to administer for yourself, or your family member.

Your doctor, unfortunately, may not be the best source of information on this matter, unless he or she has taken the time to become educated personally about vaccines. And if your doctor belittles you, refuses to treat your family, or will not take the time to discuss your vaccine concerns with you, I suggest you find one who will. Remember, it is your choice and your responsibility to get educated about vaccination, and your doctor should work with you on this.

I also encourage you to get involved with the work that NVIC is doing to protect your right to choose which vaccines you want your children to get, including the legal right to use all, some, or no vaccines at all. Register for the free NVIC Advocacy Portal that educates you about how to communicate effectively with your elected state representatives and protect vaccine exemptions in your state. Stay informed about what is happening in your state and make your voice heard.

Go to and register today to take action.

Related Articles:

  The "Vaccine Shock" of the Year

  Warning to Parents: This Vaccine Linked to Sudden Infant Death?

  60 Lab Studies Now Confirm Cancer Link to a Vaccine You Probably Had as a Child

 Comments (145)

exvegetarians outnumber vegetariansA study done a few years ago found that ex-vegetarians outnumber current vegetarians by a ratio of three to one. This suggests that 75 percent of vegetarians lapse.

A survey shows that most former vegetarians are women (as many vegetarians are) who had been vegetarians for an average of nine years when they reverted. Most originally went vegetarian due to concerns about the treatment of animals, and most returned to meat because of reasons such as declining health, logistical hassles, social stigmas, and meat cravings.

According to Time Magazine:

?... [T]he latest form of animal activism is ... only eating ethical, sustainable meat ... Sustainable meat-eating is particularly suitable for those who return to omnivorism because of health problems?.


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

There's tremendous controversy about what type of diet is best ? and whether or not meat is an essential part of anyone's diet. Many promote vegetarianism for everyone, but this one-size-fits-all diet advice will do some people far more harm than good.

Personally, I would never argue with someone refusing to eat a particular food based on their spiritual convictions. It's your right to choose what you want to eat. However, I strongly believe there are health consequences for opting to avoid all animal protein. There's strong clinical evidence indicating that few people can maintain optimal health on such a diet.

To me, a major anecdotal clue is the observations of people who actually seek to implement this practice. If it were what their body needed and they were thriving why would, 75 percent of vegetarians revert back to eating meat?oftentimes due to declining health?  This does not mean that many who follow a vegetarian diet aren't healthy and thriving, but it certainly is a major indication that many find problems with it.

Why Vegetarianism Isn't the Best Diet for a Majority of People

While I've previously discussed my own experience with vegetarianism, I'm not the only one who has experienced a decline in health as a result of shunning all animal protein. As mentioned above, many vegetarians who revert back to eating animal protein do so because they start having health problems. This isn't all that surprising, considering the fact that protein is one of the basic building blocks your body needs to build, maintain, and repair your body tissues.

That said, I am not saying that everyone needs red meat, fish or poultry to stay healthy either... Other sources of high quality protein include raw organic dairy and eggs, which would not violate any ethical concerns about sacrificing animals for meats.

And regardless of your ethical leanings on animal rights, I strongly recommend avoiding meat from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This type of meat is significantly inferior in quality and nutrition, and the harm will likely outweigh the benefit for most people.

My nutrition plan, which is divided into beginners, intermediate and advanced, can help you customize a diet that's optimal for you. When making a decision about which foods to eat, there are a number of factors to consider:

  1. Everyone needs fats, carbohydrates, and protein in order to thrive. However, the ratios of each of these will vary from person to person. For example, some thrive on very large amounts of vegetables and very little animal protein, while others need more protein and less vegetable carbs. The people who fare the worst on a vegetarian diet are those who require higher amounts of protein, as they're depriving their bodies of essential fuel.
  2. The quality of the meat (which is primarily determined by the way it was raised), and the way it is cooked will impact its health benefits.
  3. The types and amounts of vegetables chosen, because not all vegetables are created equal either. For example, increasing your vegetable intake with salads is a good start, but iceberg lettuce has minimal nutritional value. Red and green leaf lettuce, along with romaine lettuce and spinach, are more nutritious options. Eating a wide variety of vegetables is also important to ensure optimal nutrition.

Not All Meat is Created Equal

The movement toward "ethical and sustainable meat eating" is in large part fueled by former vegetarians, who have realized there's a better way to promote humanitarian treatment of farm animals than total abstinence. After all, if you avoid meat because you object to factory farming conditions, you're not really helping to change the system at all. Your decision has very little impact... But by supporting small farms that raise their animals in a humane fashion, you're promoting the proliferation of such farms, which in the end will benefit everyone, including all the animals.

Organic, grass-fed meat that is humanely raised and butchered is really the only type of meat worth eating, if you want to maintain your good health.

I've previously written about the atrocities that take place in some U.S. CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), where animals are raised in filthy, crowded conditions, and I think we can all agree that such animal abuse is inexcusable, even if they're "only" being raised for food. But that's not the only reason why I recommend avoiding these types of meat. Most CAFO's pump the animals full of hormones and drugs, and feed them unnatural diets consisting of pesticide-laden and oftentimes genetically modified (GM) grains.

It would be foolish to think that the end result?the meat from these animals?would have any major health benefits...

In fact, the differences between CAFO beef and organic grass-fed beef are so vast; you're really talking about two different animals, and two separate industries with entirely different farming practices and environmental impact. The latter also tends to favor far more humane butchering practices, which is also a very important part of "ethical meat."

A More Humane and Healthier Option

Grass-based feeding is a very efficient and ecologically sustainable method of farming. Instead of producing tons of grain for feed -- which requires extensive land, fertilizer, pest management, and large equipment for cultivating, harvesting, drying, storage and feeding -- pasture-based farming lets the cows do the work. They harvest, fertilize, and feed themselves, overseen by the farmer in a carefully managed system. The net result is significantly less fuel consumption, less erosion, less air and water pollution and greater soil fertility. The animals also get to live a natural life outdoors, grazing off the land as they were intended to.

Most importantly, this natural and harmonious way of raising animals also leads to a superior food product.  Grass-fed beef, for instance, is lower in fat than regular CAFO-raised beef. It also contains three to five times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid. The milk from grass-fed cows is also higher in many nutrients, including CLA, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fats.

Health benefits of CLA include:

Fighting cancer Promoting fat loss Increasing your metabolic rate Promoting normal thyroid function
Delaying onset of diabetes, and improving management of adult-onset diabetes Helping maintain normal cholesterol levels Helping maintain healthful triglyceride levels Enhancing your immune system

Why Choosing 'Grass-Fed' Beef is More Important than Choosing 'Organic'

Keep in mind that grass-fed, and particularly grass-finished, beef is almost always preferable to certified organic. There are two primary reasons for this:

  1. Most grass-fed cattle are fed on grasslands with limited pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful chemicals, and the animals will never see the inside of a feedlot. Hence it's often comparable to organic even if it's not marked as such.
  2. Most organic beef is still fed organic corn, which is what causes the myriad of health problems associated with eating CAFO-raised beef. Grain diets create a much higher level of acidity in the animal's stomach, in which E.coli bacteria can thrive.

The term "grass-finished" means the animals were grass-fed throughout their life. Some producers feed their herds grass only in the beginning, and then finish them off on grains.

Grass-fed and finished beef not only trumps grain-fed beef in terms of nutrition, but also in food safety. It has a minimal risk of contamination compared to grain-fed beef due to the difference in stomach pH in the two diets. And since grass-finished animals live in clean grass pastures, this superior level of sanitation greatly reduce the risk of E.coli infection as well. If you can find certified organic, grass-fed and grass-finished meat, you've essentially struck gold...

What You Need to Know about the USDA Grass-Fed Label

On November 15, 2007, the USDA enacted new standards for the grass-fed label. According to this new USDA marketing claim standard

Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state.  

Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources...  

This sounds all good and well. However, there are few loopholes. Most importantly, these standards are voluntary, so in order for you to confirm that this standard is actually being met, and the animals were indeed grass-fed until the end, the meat must also carry the "USDA Process Verified" label in addition to the "grass-fed" label.

Additionally, as pointed out by the American Grassfed Association, the definition of "growing season" means that animals could be confined indoors for long periods, and can be kept off of pasture even when there is grass growing. The rules also do not restrict the use of antibiotics and hormones in the animals.  

Another issue frequently overlooked is that of cost to the farmer.  USDA certification is costly, which prevents many small farmers?who are often raising food in traditional, healthy ways anyway?from legally calling their products "USDA grass-fed," because they can't afford to pay for the certification. However, if you go to your local farm and talk to the farmer, you can determine whether or not they fulfill the criteria of ethical and sustainable grass-fed and finished meat production for yourself.  By going straight to the source, you're likely getting the absolute best meat there is, USDA-certified or not.

Are You Ready to Make the Switch?

If you're currently a vegetarian, and your diet allows you to function at the highest level of energy and fitness and you rarely feel hungry or crave sweets, then you're likely on the right track. These are signs that you are eating foods that are appropriate for you.

However if you avoid animal protein for ethical reasons, and are struggling with health challenges, then I encourage you to consider changing your diet to include ethically-raised animal proteins. That may actually be the best form of animal activism, because it benefits not only yourself and the animals, but your entire community and the environment as well. The more people start demanding humanely-raised, grass-fed organic meats, the more farms will spring up to meet the demand, which will make it easier and less expensive for everyone to get access to these superior foods.

If you happen to live in an area that doesn't have at least one local farm, look for a farmer's market or community-supported agriculture program in your area. is a good source. Simply enter your zip code to find nearby farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food.

Switching from supermarket to local farmer allows you to get superior food from a safer, more humane source, while supporting your community and the environment at the same time?it's truly a win-win-win-win proposition, and what could be better than that?

Related Articles:

  Scientific Literature that Supports the Health Benefits Of Grass Fed Beef

  The Secret Sauce in Grass-Fed Beef

  Why Grassfed Animal Products Are Better For You

 Comments (243)

best and worst food for healthy weightU.S. News evaluated and ranked 20 diets with input from a panel of health experts. They looked at whether or not a diet was easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss, and effective against diabetes and heart disease.

According to U.S. News, the top rated diet was the U.S. government-endorsed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). Other high-ranking diets included the Mediterranean Diet, the TLC diet, Weight Watchers, and the Mayo Clinic diet.

Oddly, however, the Paleo diet ranked lowest of the 20 not because it was a poor diet, but because they didn't believe it was possible to find the appropriate foods in the modern era!

Another recent study supports the notion that when it comes to your weight, the quality of your food is paramount.  

In a comprehensive study, researchers determined exactly how much weight gain is associated with the consumption of certain foods. The worst offenders were potato chips, which caused more weight gain per serving than any other food, the study found. The best food was found to be yogurt.

According to Time Magazine:

"It matters, of course, how many total calories you take in each day, but the authors say the age-old advice simply to 'eat less and exercise more' may be na

Sunscreen SafetyThe Environmental Working Group's 2011 sunscreen guide can help you determine which sunscreens are unsafe. The group recommends just 20 percent of the 600-plus sport sunscreens it evaluated.

For a product to score high marks, it needed to be free of potentially harmful chemicals. Not surprisingly, their list of products to avoid list contains some popular brands.

According to Yahoo News, companies with sunscreens that scored poorly include Aveeno, Banana Boat, CVS, and Neutrogena. For more information, and to see which products EWG approved, you can click on the Yahoo link below.

Time Magazine also recounts some of the Environmental Working Group's advice:

"Avoid oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Many effective products contain one or both compounds ? oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate ? that the EWG specifically suggests avoiding. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disrupter, the EWG says, and retinyl palmitate is a form of topical vitamin A that some animal studies suggest may be linked to an increased risk of skin cancer."


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you go to your local drugstore and pick up a sunscreen for yourself and your family, there's a good chance that it will contain toxic chemicals that the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) 2011 Sunscreen Guide recommends completely avoiding.

This is true whether you choose a product with a high SPF or even for some of those that claim to be "natural." In fact, EWG recommends just 1 in 5 of more than 600 beach and sport sunscreens rated. Unfortunately, many Americans will be unknowingly bathing their bodies in toxic and ineffective sunscreen lotions when they head outdoors this summer -- but you don't have to be one of them.

Four Sunscreen "Red Flags"

EWG's "Hall of Shame" features sunscreen products that embody the worst of the worst when it comes to sun protection. You can spot these products by being aware of these four red flags:

  1. Contains Oxybenzone

    Sixty-five percent of non-mineral sunscreens on the U.S. market contain oxybenzone. This chemical penetrates your skin in large amounts, potentially triggering allergic reactions. Oxybenzone is also a potential endocrine-disrupting chemical that can cause hormone disruption and cell damage.

    It's been found that 97 percent of Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone, and researchers have specifically advised against using this chemical on children, who are especially vulnerable to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Writing in the journal the Lancet, researchers noted:

    "It would be prudent not to apply oxybenzone to large surface areas of skin for extended and repeated periods of time unless no alternative protection is available. There may be an additional concern for young children who have less well-developed processes of elimination and have a larger surface area per body weight than adults, with respect to systemic availability of a topically applied dose."

  2. Contains Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate)

    The sunscreen industry uses vitamin A in its formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that is thought to slow skin aging. However, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study found that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when used in sunscreen and therefore exposed to sunlight may actually speed the development of skin lesions and tumors.

    This conclusion came from EWG's analysis of the findings released by the FDA and the National Toxicology Program. As EWG stated in the 2011 report:

    "EWG analysis of product labels finds retinoid ingredients in hundreds of sunscreens, skin lotions, lip sticks and lip sunscreens?all of which pose safety concerns for sun-exposed skin. At this point, the NTP [National Toxicology Program] and FDA have invested more than a decade in studying retinoids, concluding in January 2011 that both retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid speed the development of cancerous lesions and tumors.

    A year after EWG sounded the alarm about retinyl palmitate, there is still no FDA position on the safety of retinoids in cosmetics. Sunscreen industry trade groups continue to dispute EWG's warning. Most cosmetics companies have not removed these ingredients from sunscreens and other skin and lip products.

    EWG recommends that consumers avoid products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate and retinol."

    Our sunscreen used to have vitamin A in it, as at the time it was felt to be a benefit, but when we learned of its potential health problems we immediately removed it. However many other brands still include it in their formulas, so beware, and always check the labels when shopping for sunscreen.

  3. Inadequate UVA Protection

    The EWG analysis found that more than 60 percent of products reviewed provide inadequate UVA protection, and are actually so ineffective that they would not be approved in the European market. There are two primary types of UV rays from sunlight that you need to be concerned with, the vitamin-D-producing UVB rays and the skin-damaging UVA light.

    Both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, although UVB does so far more rapidly. UVA, however, penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB, and may be a much more important factor in photoaging, wrinkles and skin cancers.

    Since UVA's are inherently more damaging AND persistently high during all daylight hours, wearing a sunscreen that doesn't protect you from UVA is going to give you virtually no benefit and be detrimental to your overall health. So it's important to understand that if you're using sunscreen, you need to be certain you are actually getting UVA protection.

    Europe is taking a far more stringent stance to ensure that consumers are protected against the damaging UVA light when they use sunscreens, but in the United States sunscreen standards fall short.

    As EWG reported:

    " ? Europe's proposed standards for UVA protection are far more stringent than FDA's. The agency has spent years finalizing a rule that would merely require disclosure of UVA protection levels, while Europe has proposed that sunscreens provide UVA protection at a level at least one-third as strong as the sunburn protection level (SPF).

    This means the minimum UVA protection in Europe would be roughly equivalent to FDA's proposed three-star protection level. Requiring balanced protection across the UVB and UVA spectrum has the secondary effect of limiting sky-high SPF values, ensuring that sunburn protection isn't out of step with protection from other health problems, such as free radical damage and skin cancer.

    Very few sunscreens on the U.S. market would meet the baseline UVA protection standards proposed in Europe."

  4. Too High SPF or in Spray Form

    Higher SPF sunscreens (SPF 50+) are not intrinsically harmful, however there's evidence that the higher protection level gives people a misleading sense of security, encouraging them to stay in the sun longer than they should. In reality, research suggests that people using high-SPF sunscreens get the same or similar exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays as those using lower-SPF products.

    Spray-on sunscreens (or powders) were advised against because potentially toxic particles are released into the air, making them easy to breathe in.

Which Sunscreens are the Safest?

After the analysis was complete, EWG concluded:

"The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. No chemicals to absorb through the skin, no questions about whether they work."

I second this sentiment completely! I have long stated that one of the best strategies to protect yourself from the sun is actually not a sunscreen at all, it's wearing clothing or getting into the shade. This is precisely because, as EWG's findings support, most sunscreens are loaded with toxic chemicals that can actually accelerate skin cancer, or get into your bloodstream where they can disrupt your hormones.

Also, the protection sunscreen manufacturers claim is often misleading.

Cotton clothing provides about SPF 15. In other words, you will get about 15 times your skin's normal protection from the sun wherever you cover your body with clothing. Just remember that even with protective clothing on your body, it's still important to monitor your skin for the telltale signs of burning.

However, safer sunscreen options do exist to provide safe protection from the sun during times when you may not be able to control the amount of sun exposure you are likely to receive with clothing. For instance, if you take your kids to an amusement park or the beach, you might just be in direct sunlight all day.

For times like these, choose a sunscreen that contains either zinc or titanium minerals -- the ingredient in all of EWG's top-rated sunscreens. My research team has put together what we think is superior sun protection and you can find more about it here.

Other safe sunscreen ingredients that will nourish your skin include:

Coconut oil Jojoba oil
Sunflower oil Shea butter
Vitamins D and E Eucalyptus oil

Why You Should NOT Wear Sunscreen Every Time You're Outdoors

Getting safe sun exposure every day is actually one of the best things you can do for your health, because sun exposure allows your body to naturally produce your own supply of vitamin D.

Why is vitamin D so important?

If you've spent any time on my site at all, you know that I'm a firm advocate for optimizing your vitamin D levels because it impacts so many aspects of health. For example, this superb nutrient is known to help:

Support your cardiovascular health Support healthy kidney function
Enhance your muscle strength Promote healthy teeth
Help produce optimal blood pressure levels Help keep your bones strong and healthy
Help maintain a healthy immune system Reduce the risk of cancer

This list of important benefits represents only a fraction of the many ways vitamin D helps optimize your health. And, although you can obtain vitamin D from natural food sources or supplements, experts agree on one thing: Sunlight is by far the best way to get your vitamin D. The so-called experts who advise you to avoid all sunlight and religiously apply sunscreen are actually encouraging you to increase your risk of cancer, not lower it?

Over the years, several studies have already confirmed that appropriate sun exposure may even help prevent skin cancer. In fact, melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with greater sun exposure, and can be increased by sunscreens.

The key is to find a healthy balance between getting enough natural sunlight to maximize your vitamin D production and maintain your optimal health, while at the same time protecting yourself from damage that occurs from overexposure to the sun. The point to remember is that once your skin turns the lightest shade of pink (if you're Caucasian), it's time to get out of the sun. Past this point of exposure your body will not produce any more vitamin D and you'll begin to have sun damage. And sunburn anywhere on your body is not good for your health.

What You Need to Know for a Sun-Safe Summer

If you work outdoors all day as part of your job, or if you need to protect sensitive areas of your face, like around your eyes, that are particularly susceptible to photoaging and not large enough a surface to impact vitamin D levels if blocked with sunscreen, certain sunscreens available in most health food stores, and the my Healthy Skin Sunscreen, are safe to use when the need arises.

You can also see exactly how your sunscreen rates for safe ingredients and efficacy by checking out EWG's 2011 Sunscreen Guide here.

However, sometimes even the most vigilant of us forget to bring along the proper natural sunscreen when we need it, which is why it's wise to ensure your body is primed to have the best defense against overexposure to the sun's harmful UVA rays at all times.

Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants has always been a useful strategy in this regard, and fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn.

Fresh, raw vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful anti-oxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.

The relatively unknown carotenoid called astaxanthin has also piqued the interest of researchers due to its ability to reduce signs of aging by helping protect your skin from sun damage.

Astaxanthin is produced from marine algae in response to exposure to UV light. This is the way the algae protects itself, so it makes perfect sense that this deeply pigmented substance would have the capacity to "shield" you when it is taken in large enough quantities for a long enough time to saturate your body's tissues. Typically this is several weeks.

Cyanotech Corporation funded a study through an independent consumer research laboratory to measure the skin's resistance to both UVA and UVB light, before and after astaxanthin supplementation.

The result was that in only three weeks of taking 4mg per day subjects showed a significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden their skin. You can find more information on how to use astaxanthin to help protect your skin from sun damage here.

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