Playing It Safe Outside

Playing It Safe Outside

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Carrie McBride
Jun 28, 2010

Outdoor month on Ohdeedoh may be drawing to a close but summer is in full swing. Whether we are headed to the park, going for a swim, or exploring our own yards (or balconies, patios, rooftops or front stoops), we stay safe with the right sun and insect protection. It's particularly frustrating as parents to learn that many of the very products marketed to protect our families are loaded with dubious chemicals. A little vigilant label reading and a few old-school physical measures are the best approach to building an arsenal against summer's critters and sun.

Insect repellent. While the EPA has given the green-light on sprays containing DEET, we would just as soon steer clear of products containing the synthetic repellent. Look for DEET-free alternatives made with eucalyptus, citronella, geranium or soybean oils. Safe Mama has a good cheat sheet listing products that are free of DEET, parabens and pthalates. BUGBAND wristbands are a DEET-free option that can be worn on wrists or belt loops or fastened to stroller handles.

Sun block. Add oxybenzone to your list of sketchy substances to watch. A very common ingredient in sunscreens, oxybenzone has been identified as an endocrine disruptor linked to early onset puberty in girls and low birth weight in girl babies whose mothers used products containing the compound while pregnant. Thanks but no. Physical protection (sun block) is generally safer than chemical protection (sunscreen). Look for ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which protect against both UVA (rays that cause premature aging) and UVB (rays that burn). The Environmental Working Group has a helpful searchable database. This summer we have been big fans of Badger Balm and California Baby.

The basics. Add a great hat and sun protective clothing to your child's wardrobe, and choose long sleeves and pants for adventures in tall grasses or woods where insects abound. Stationing a patio umbrella, awning or canopy over outdoor play areas shields kids from the sun while further defining the space.

(Image: Simon Gerzina, used with permission)

- Roni Shapira Ben-Yoseph

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