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Friday Finds: Burn Notice

New sunscreen rules keep consumers from getting burned
After 30 years of sitting in the sun, this week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new rules for sunscreen that help protect consumers from misleading claims, reports the New York Times. One of the rules requires “broad spectrum” sunscreens to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, which both cause cancer. A second rule bans sunscreen manufacturers from using the term “waterproof” or “sweatproof” as both of those claims are, well, false. Instead, manufacturers can specify the amount of time that sunscreen is water-resistant. Though other questions remain, such as the safety of nanoparticles in sunscreen, it’s nice to see that proper skin protection finally gets its day in the sun.

House of Representatives throws GE salmon off dinner table
Recently, the House voted to keep genetically engineered salmon out of U.S. waters by prohibiting the FDA from approving the fish for human consumption, reports the Associated Press. Made by AquaBounty, the salmon is engineered to grow twice as fast as the natural version. Though that sounds tasty on the surface, critics argue that the so-called “frankenfish” could cause allergies in humans and infiltrate—and eventually decimate—the wild salmon population, an argument that has garnered support from both sides of the political spectrum. This past May, Earthjustice petitioned the FDA to consider the environmental risks of GE salmon before approving its sale.
Plastic bag behemoths sue eco-bag industry
Alarmed by all of the plastic bag bans sweeping across the nation, manufacturers of single-use plastic bags recently started fighting back by suing reusable bag maker, ChicoBag, for “loss of sales” by making misleading claims about plastic bags and their environmental toll, reports the New York Times. Among other things, the lawsuit claims that ChicoBag knowingly overstated figures like the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mess of plastic trash and other items. ChicoBag inventor Andy Keller says that’s not true. But even if the claim isn’t entirely accurate, that may not matter, as one claims lawyer points out. As he says, “If a consumer cares about the environment, lowering their footprint, if he cares about disposal — would it really matter if the swirling mass in the Pacific is the size of Texas or just Rhode Island?”
 
Feds fess up about formaldehyde
It’s official: formaldehyde causes cancer, says the National Institutes of Health in its (long overdue) Report on Carcinogens. Though scientists have long suspected that formaldehyde, a colorless gas that brings to mind high school biology labs and that new house smell, is a carcinogen, years of industry pressure have kept the report from seeing the light of day, reports the New York Times. That all changed last week with a move by the NIH that was possibly prompted by the resignation of billionaire David Koch from the institute’s board last September. Whatever the reason, it’s now safe to say that though formaldehyde exposure in manufacturing plants is far more worrisome, in general consumers should avoid contact with the substance as much as possible.
 
Physicians find patients suffering from climate change disease
Red eyes, runny nose. Could you be suffering from….climate change? That’s what a handful of physicians are starting to suspect as warmer temperatures extend the allergy season, reports the New York Times. And they’re not alone. Recently, the American Medical Association and the American Lung Association were part of a coalition that defended the EPA’s climate regulations from GOP congressional attacks in the interest of protecting public health. But physicians can also make an impact by talking to their patients about why carbon dioxide pollution is not only bad for the environment, but bad for their families’ health. As it turns out, a good dose of reality may be just what the doctor ordered. 

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.