London College of Garden Design to sponsor planting design competition

The London College of Garden Design has announced their sponsorship of a Planting Design Competition at the Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show 2020. This is the second year that the College has sponsored the Countryside Borders Competition which aims to help budding new garden designers and experts to show what they can achieve with plants.

The competition is open to anyone involved in garden design and landscaping and Tina Worboys, winner of the 2019 competition said “It was a real honour to create my Countryside Border. Andy and the team were so encouraging, and the public response to my ‘Rewilding Hedgerow’ concept was so positive that it made my first taste of a flower show very special.”

Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “At LCGD we are committed to improving the role of innovative planting design within our profession and our unique Planting Design Diploma is now regularly fully enrolled.” He added “This competition is just another way in which we can encourage new designers to exhibit and it’s working as we are aware that some of the 2019 entrants have submitted schemes for the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition for RHS Tatton Flower Show in 2020.”

The Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show takes place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th July 2020 and is located in the Capability Brown parkland of the beautiful Belvoir Castle. More details of the competition can be obtained by downloading a brief from the LCGD website news pages.

About the London College of Garden Design

The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one-year Garden Design Diploma and a unique Planting Design Diploma delivered over 5 months. Both courses are taught from the College’s home in the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

In 2020 the London College of Garden Design Melbourne will open its doors in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne Australia.

The possibilities of pallets and pallet wood

...also packing crates and similar

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There was a time when shipping pallets (not so much as to packing crates and such) were – supposedly – to be returned (not that that always happened) and then, not so long ago, like so many other things, pallets became “disposables” in that they were no longer being taken back (especially not for deposit return) by the companies.

This means that today, unless someone takes pity on them they end up at best being burned (for energy and heat) but mostly in landfill.

The wood, while often so-called softwood (pine, spruce, etc.) in Europe, though in the USA much more in the way of hardwoods including oak, maple and others, is a valuable resource for the recycler working with wood. And do not be fooled by the word “softwood” as the heat treatment that the wood has to be, in Europe generally, subjected to can turn the “pine” wood into a rather hard material. If something can be made from wooden boards it can be made from pallet boards.

I know of people who have furnished (almost) their entire home with things made from pallets, made by themselves, and of several enterprises making lovely furniture from pallets wood and other “waste” wood used, often combined.

Rustic furniture, including and especially small items, such as small wall shelves and other such, made from pallet wood can be very decorative indeed and today, with shabby chic being very much in vogue, are also something that people want to buy. So it is not just something that one can make to furnish a home cheaply but also something that can generate an income. At the same time the wood is kept out of the waste stream and is neither burned nor buried in a hole in the ground and thus the carbon stored in this wood will remained locked up in there for a while longer.

There are quite a number of companies that sell similar (small) items of home furnishings, made in places such as India, and others, from “reclaimed” wood, sold at a relatively high price, which can easily be made in an hour or two from pallet wood even by the not overly skilled person. With a little more time and effort invested in the work those items are also, as said previously, saleable and any entrepreneur-minded person could start a little business doing it. Ideas aplenty, if own ones are lacking, are to be found online at Pinterest and other places.

The greatest challenge to using pallet wood is the breaking-up of them into usable parts especially as the so-called Euro-Pallets nowadays no longer have the batten runners but wooden, often press-wood, blocks. But even those blocks, the ones from solid wood and not so much those from pressed wood (sawdust), can be made into something, though the batten runners were much more useful. However, those blocks make the breaking-up of pallets somewhat more of a challenge than the old traditional battens, but it can be done, though at times not as easily as with the older style.

For the batten-style, still in use in the USA and elsewhere outside the EU, tools have been designed that make the breaking-up of pallets quite easy. With the blocks those tools are, generally, not going to work, and hence it is back to the old tool, the crowbar (prybar) and hammer, and it means that there might be breakages. Also, some Euro-Pallets have riveted over nails at some areas which means that sometimes only short boards can be reclaimed. That, however, should not stop us from reclaiming the wood for use and reuse.

For projects in the garden pallets more often than not do not (even) have to be broken up and can make great fences, for instance, internal and external, and there are many ways to use them for this. You do not even need many posts if done the right way.

When it comes to making other things out of pallet wood, such as items of (small) furniture, etc., then boards are needed to be reclaimed and then we have to accept that some are shorter than others, that some may get damaged (some already may be due to the load the pallet carried or the handling it received), and so on. That should not deter us to do it, however. To waste this material just would not do, in my opinion. Pallet wood is a valuable resource in many ways.

While the old style pallet, with the battens, in a way, was better for the recycler, the Euro-Pallet found all over Europe now still can be used and even the blocks, unless they are press-wood, are usable. Pencil/pen holders are just one example. It just takes a different approach to disassembling them, that is all, and, alas, there are no nice battens to reuse. But so be it. The wood of those pallets is still a valuable resource far too good to be wasted and the possibilities for the wood of all kinds of pallets (and wooden packing cases and crates) are almost legion.

© 2019

England is too lazy to hit recycling targets – Time to get tough

PRESS RELEASE – Republished as received
The UK's waste management agency says it's time to start fining companies that don't recycle their waste

Britain could quite easily hit its 50% waste recycling target overnight if only people, companies and organisations up and down the country could be bothered.

At the moment, we only recycle 45% of our waste – a figure that's stayed roughly the same for the last three years – and that's a national disgrace when we consider (current) European partners currently aiming for 100% recycling targets and hitting them, says a national waste management company.

According to, it would only take a relatively small effort and a one-off cash injection to provide the facilities to convert the UK from one of the losers in the European recycling waste to one of the leaders. We could stop 70 million tons of waste going to landfill in just one year with new legislation, the waste agency estimates.

"The message from central government been one of 'Why bother?'," says spokesperson Mark Hall. "They came to office saying they'd be the 'greenest government ever' and they've done virtually nothing on that front. We already have the ability to hit more ambitious targets, just not the will." says it's time for England to come into line with the rest of the UK and enact strict waste and recycling laws for companies organisations and schools. Scotland compels businesses to recycle as much as is practicable, and Wales is to follow up with a similar law. It's only in England, home to 80% of the UK's waste output, that nothing is being done.

"It's time to wield a big stick on waste," says Hall, "But also to be as helpful as possible to assist organisations into complying with any new law." recommends:
  • Big fines for companies that do not recycle waste, up to £100,000 for repeat offenders
  • Tax credits to help companies and organisations offset the purchase price of new bins required to sort the waste at site
  • Local help points to assist companies in formulating an effective waste policy
  • A 12-month amnesty at the start of the law to get as many companies up to speed as possible
  • Allowances for smaller companies to run joint recycling schemes with neighbouring businesses
The waste management company estimates that up to two million new bins and skips would be required to make English companies compliant with any new law. says a one-off cash injection would be required, which could be offset against tax and reduced waste costs for most companies.
  • A new recycling law would mean one-off extra costs of around £2,500 for the average business
  • This cost would be offset year-after-year with reduced landfill tax payments
  • Arrangements should be made to allow the initial cost to be written off in corporate end-of-year tax returns.
The benefits for the United Kingdom would be clear almost immediately, says
  • A national jump from 45% recycling to 70% would take around 70 million tons of waste out of landfill every year, taking pressure off our nearly-full landfill sites
  • This would mean extra business for companies that recycle goods back into raw materials, generating jobs
  • It would also mean lower factory gate prices for many companies as they are purchasing cheaper recycled raw materials rather than having to buy 'new'
"All we need is the political will for this to happen," says Mark Hall, "But it appears that those in power are scared of the cost of setting the wheels in motion." says that England could quite easily join the rest of the UK and parts of western Europe in taking a giant step toward waste and recycling targets overnight if the country just put its mind to it.

"We've set a ten year target to reach 70% recycling from homes and businesses," says Business Waste's Mark Hall. "Ten years! What a joke! We could do that tomorrow if we could be bothered." is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds. We manage waste and recycling collections for companies in and around major towns at the best possible prices.

The company is committed to reducing wasteful landfill, and works to help companies increase their recycling targets. campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering, wasteful behaviour, and to encourage greater recycling. We're the waste company that hates waste.



Making do is a deeply pragmatic philosophy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Making do is a deeply pragmatic philosophy. One that our ancestors, and many not even that far removed, definitely had.

It means asking of our things the only question we should ever ask of them: “Can you fulfill your intended use for me?” The answer – if we can be honest, and resist a moment of discomfort, inconvenience or boredom – is, extraordinarily often, yes.

Making do is about taming the reflex to discard, replace or upgrade; it’s about using things well, and using them until they are used up. Taken literally, it simply means making something perform – making it do what it ought to do.

That is one part of the making do philosophy, the other part is reusing things and repurposing them, including items that are otherwise considered waste, and that is something has been done by our ancestors, and that not all that long ago. Every glass jar was put to use as a storage container, for instance, and many an empty tin can also was reused for something or reworked into something else.

It is very much the philosophy that I grew up with as a child. To some degree that was due to the fact that we had very little in material wealth and income and we just had to make do, whether it was hand-me down clothes or toys, or making our own toys, games and also other things. This attitude has stayed with me till this very day, now being almost sixty years old. In fact I take great pleasure out of the ability to make things from what others consider waste and to reuse whatever comes along.

But it also goes for things that may have been bought. Trying the very best to make them last for as long as at all possible and perform. Where everyone else, it seems, is replacing their cellphone every six months or so because they get an upgrade from their service provider and then toss the “old” one even though that is still working perfectly, or simply buying a new one (I'd love to have that kind of money to waste) simply because a newer version, with more “bells and whistles”, has come out and, again, tossing the old one even though it still works perfectly.

I can also never pass up the chance to rescue things that other people have thrown and try to make those things either work again for their intended purposes or repurpose them for other uses. This includes bicycles that have been abandoned or thrown away, often with more or less nothing (much) wrong with them and I have a collection of bicycles that have come that way or been rebuilt and built with the parts of others that have been “thrown”. Those that cannot be rebuilt are cannibalized for spares that can then be used for the other bikes, and that what is left over and cannot be made use of goes to the scrap yard.

The biggest problem with that mentality (of mine), though, is that one needs a barn or two to store all the things one comes across that “might come in handy” for this or that project or repair of this or that item, or simply in the future because this “rescuing of things that others have thrown away” also extends to furniture, wooden pallets, and what have you.

The pallets are used for many things, including building fences in the garden, as well as making (small) items of furniture for the home, and also for sale. I hate those things to go to waste and nowadays the great majority of them are single-use items in that if you receive something on a pallet you have to dispose off it. They can no longer – in general – be returned to the supplier. The great majority of them are also, when the go to the waste dumps, recycled but simply get landfilled. At least if they would be burned for energy and heat they would have some end use. Hence I try to take as many as possible out of the waste stream and make new products out of them. But where to store them all?

So, the mindset can also harbor its own problems.

© 2019

Reuse and Repair

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Half a century ago, we were a thriving culture of reuse and repair. What happened?

What happened? Simple. Industry decided that it was too expensive for it to develop new products that people really wanted and needed and rather made products that broke rather quickly and were made in such a way that they can no longer be repaired and thus people have to buy the same (kind of) product again and again.

It, more or less, began at the time of Osram taking on the manufacture of light bulbs, or so it is said, when they started to make them with a built-in obsolescence of lasting but x-number of turn on and off cycles, as the way the bulbs were then they would last almost forever.

But it really went from bad to worse, at least as far as Western Europe is concerned, from around the beginning of the 1980, may be even a little earlier, when first the deposit schemes for bottles, including beer, was abandoned and bottles became buy and throw, and then products were being made in such a way that they could no longer be opened to be repaired, thus making it impossible to extend their life.

Then came the outsourcing of manufacture to countries such as China and products became so cheap to buy and repair, if at all possible, to expensive that buying new is often many times cheaper than repair. And everyone is surprised, strangely enough, that we have a waste problem.

Yes, it is true that most of our countries, with the exception, but then it was not a Western nation during that time, the German Democratic Republic, often, falsely, referred to as East Germany, did not have a recycling culture but then that is also not entirely true for the rag and bone man was the collector of items for recycling, often doing some of that work himself.

In the German Democratic Republic what we can recyclables today were referred to as secondary raw materials and they were sorely needed as the country itself was very short of raw materials of any sort bar some iron ore. Every tin can was made back into steel, every bottles and even glass jar was reused and not broken up and downcycled, as is all too often the case nowadays – or does anyone really believe that when all glass is tossed together (broken) into the recycler they are able to make bottles and other glass products out of that mass of glass shards again – and industry in the country heavily relied on such secondary raw materials. Waste paper, newspapers and other paper, also was seen as such secondary raw material and most newspapers, books, school books, exercise books, etc. were made from truly recycled paper. The quality of this paper was not always the best but the German Democratic Republic did this well before any one in the West even thought it necessary.

Reuse and repair also was – out of necessity – the order of the day in the GDR and most products were made in such a way that they lasted and that they could be repaired, by the user often even in more or less simple DIY, and it was also the same case still in the West until about the 1980s or so.
Thereafter products in the West were either made in such a way that often even a repairman could not open an item that needed repair due to so-called proprietary screws to which only the manufacturer had the drivers. Thus access to the internal workings of a device was no longer given and repair not possible, much like today with many products, such as the i-Phone where things are glues rather than screwed and any attempt to access the interior for repair may result in compete destruction of case and device.

In other cases it has just simply become too expensive to even consider repair. When the repair for a brand-name (I won't mention the name though) computer printer, which itself has cost £30, is being quoted as, including parts and labor, more than 4x the purchase price, then repair is definitely not something anyone with sense would consider. Hence, waste. How can, however, a manufacturer justify the cost of a small spare part to be £75 in a printer that has cost less than half that amount, in all honesty, beats me. The labor costs was quoted at the same rate, and in addition shipping to and from manufacturer. It would have had to be sent in as no access to the area in the printer where the broken part resided.

A switch on a coffee machine cannot be repaired, as also encountered by this author, simply because the manufacturer has used screws that cannot be removed, thus rendering the machine obsolete and thus waste. Has everyone gone absolutely stupid; us, as consumers as well for accepting this?

The same goes for shoes and boots. Even if one can find good ones, where, for instance, there is actually a midsole that has been sewn to the upper, for instance, as in a pair of boots that I had. The seem had split a little and needed sewing but, alas, I did not have the correct needles and was unable to find them in the UK. So I took it to a shoe repair shop and first of all it took me several time of explaining what I wanted doing and all the operator understood was that I wanted new soles put on. When the finally grasped it the reply was: “I do not have a machine to do that”. It didn't need a machine but two bent needles and waxed thread; that was all. But those repair shops, today, are but machine operators and if there is not a machine for it it can't be done.

Forty years ago there would have been the men and even women who could have, in their little shops, been able to do such a repair within minutes with needles and thread, as the above one, and the same was true for radios, TVs, and other electrical appliances. To repair a car you did not need a degree in computer science and the right kinds test computers and such, but just some wrenches, screwdrivers, or what have you, and many people did a lot of tinkering on their cars themselves. Spare parts often came from the scrapyard because you just unbolted something from a scrap car and bolted it onto yours. Today that cannot be done. When the “glass” (plastic nowadays) of one of your indicators, for instance, is broken you have to replace, nowadays, the entire thing. No more going to just buying the “glass” or salvaging it from a scrap yard. Nope. An expensive new entire light has to be bought and fitted.

How did we ever become that stupid? Well, it was not so much us, the consumers, but the manufacturers. But then again, we have to share some of the blame for allowing it to happen.

© 2019

Holidaymakers encouraged to save their lilos from landfill by turning them into designer bags

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Holidaymakers can see their unwanted lilos transformed into designer bags and pouches thanks to a holiday company that’s pledging to reduce the number of inflatables sent to landfill.

Holiday Hypermarket has teamed up with sustainable designer Wyatt and Jack to encourage customers to turn their holiday inflatables into one-of-a-kind bags, with the package-holiday specialist picking up the postage costs for sending the plastic products. The pre-paid labels can be downloaded here:

Whether transforming a blow-up unicorn, a giant rubber doughnut, a classic lilo or any other weird-and-wonderful inflatable, the designers at Wyatt and Jack will work their magic. They'll create a new pouch or tote bag and generate little, if any, waste.

Georgia Wyatt-Lovell, founder of Wyatt and Jack, says: 'Holiday inflatables are great fun for a week or two, but when the holiday’s over, most people have no further use for them. By taking part in our inflatable amnesty, you can turn your lilo into something that’s unique and practical and literally carry around the memories of a wonderful holiday and cut down on plastic waste.'

For this partnership with Holiday Hypermarket, Wyatt and Jack is offering a 15% discount on all purchases, with prices for A5 pouches starting from just £8.

The initiative follows research of 2,000 British holidaymakers by Holiday Hypermarket that found:
- 25% leave their lilo at the hotel at the end of their holiday
- 9% throw their lilo into the bin before heading home
- 57% of holidaymakers won’t reuse a lilo left behind by someone else
With Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) figures suggesting there will be more than eight million package holidays taken by Brits in 2019*, these figures imply that:
- More than two million people will leave their lilo behind
- More than 700,000 holidaymakers will throw their inflatable into the bin

Craig Duncan of Holiday Hypermarket says: "We were astounded by how many British holidaymakers say they abandon their lilos after their holidays. Plastic pollution is a real problem and we all have to think about the decisions we take and the impact they have on the destinations we visit.
"During our research, we spoke to hotels and they described lilos as an awful problem that is getting worse. When a holidaymaker leaves a lilo behind, hotels have little choice but to store them or send them to the local landfill.

"We asked holidaymakers if they would use free lilos and inflatables provided by their hotel, but more than half said no. This means that even if people think their left-behind-lilo will be used by someone else, the chances are it won’t, as most holidaymakers prefer to buy their own.
"This plastic problem needs smart solutions, and we are delighted to team up with Wyatt and Jack to give holidaymakers the opportunity to do something useful with their lilo after their holiday.'

To find out more about upcycling your lilo and to download the free Holiday Hypermarket postage label for sending inflatables to Wyatt and Jack, visit

*ABTA’s Holiday Habits Report 2018 says that 49% of British people took a package holiday in the past 12 months. According to the latest census information, the UK population is 66.7m, so 49% is 33m. Based on four people per booking, there were 8.25m package holidays taken over the past 12 months.

About Holiday Hypermarket: Holiday Hypermarket is a member of the TUI AG group of companies, selling package holidays from a variety of operators in countries across the world. Holiday Hypermarket is fully ABTA bonded and ATOL protected.

About Wyatt & Jack: Wyatt and Jack is a sustainable British brand that has been making bags and accessories from up cycled vintage deckchair canvas and broken bouncy castles since 2010. Follow then on social media @wyattandjack and #inflatableamnesty.

The great thing about Wyatt & Jack is, aside from what they do, is that all the products are made in Britain, in their workshop in Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, and not in China or some other low-wage country.

© 2019

ARS-UVR-32PRO – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ARS-UVR-32PRO from Sorbus International

Pro pruning saw with sheath, curved blade 4mm pitch, rubber grip. Blade high-Carbon Steel with hard-chrome plating. Curvature ground teeth (SUPER TURBOCUT®) and impulse hardened. 4mm tooth pitch with 1.5 mm tooth thickness. Blade length 320 mm and overall length 480 mm with a weight of 430 grams.

Having used Silky saws, including the Zubat, before I was really wondering how this one compared to everyone's favorites, namely Silky. Personally I am not, necessarily, balled over by Silky, I hasten to add. I must say the performance that I have had from the ARS-UVR-32PRO so far, in green standing and dead standing wood is far above that of the Silky flagship, the Zubat, probably due to the fact that the blade of the ARS-UVR-32PRO has 4 cut-outs, for lack of a better word, to remove the swath rather than just one, as in the case of the Zubat, at least the one that I have.

The cutting action if very smooth (OK, the saw is new) and there is none of the, what I call, “hooking”, when the saw bites itself somewhat tight. The latter is often due to an accumulation of swath in the cut which the four “cut-outs” in the curved blade eliminate, and four “cut-outs” are definitely better than one.

At just over £72 the ARS-UVR-32PRO is a little more expensive than the Silky Zubat but its performance is by better than that of the latter, so the few quid extra are well worth it, I would say.

© 2019

The pencil; a most reliable writing tool

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The question as to how “green” it is as far as manufacture and such is concerned is one thing but as far as reliability goes it trumps all. But I should think that it is a great deal greener, in manufacture as well as in disposal, as is the ballpoint pen, especially the one that is encased in plastic and which, more often than not, is tossed out after it has run out of ink.

The pencil also writes under low gravity or zero gravity conditions, upside down, etc. and that is while the USA spent millions upon millions developing a pen for their spaceflights (enter the Fisher Space Pen) the USSR took what was about, the (indelible) pencil, just as they did during the war.

The pencil writes well also in sub-zero temperatures without any problems and all it needs is a (pen)knife with which to sharpen it. It is, for that reason, also the ideal choice as a writing instrument in a survival kit. Unlike an ink pen, whether fountain or ballpoint, it will not dry up either during long storage, which is a great advantage if one has a large stock or keeps one in a survival kit where it may not be looked at, so to speak, and used in anger for a very long time.

While the fountain pen and the more common ballpoint pen, whether the disposable or not, write, generally, well enough under normal conditions when it comes to cold weather and others then they let you down. Also, regardless of whether the ballpoint pen is a disposable there is always the aspect of waste, be this as the entire pen or just the refill. The pencil, on the other hand, writer in almost all conditions and the only waste there is are the shaving (biodegradable) and the stub that may no longer be usable. It also rots down in the compost nicely, leaving just the graphite, which is no problem either.

I love the fountain pen but, alas, today's paper (no, not the media) is of such a standard that the ink from any such kind of pen bleeds through and thus is not suitable. That leaves only then the ballpoint pen or the pencil then. The former has some issues, especially when it comes to certain conditions and to the fact that the ink may – and more often than not does – dry up when “in storage” or not used and even when it has been used but has not for some time. This is not a problem with the latter, that is to say the pencil. It works in most, if not even all, conditions, and also on surfaces where the pen might not, upside down, on a wall, in zero gravity; none of that a problem for the pencil.

© 2019

Sprout Lands – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sprout Lands
by William Bryant Logan
Published by W W Norton, April 2019
Hardcover 165 x 244 mm / 384 pages
ISBN 9780393609417
Price: £19.99

Arborist William Bryant Logan recovers the lost tradition that sustained human life and culture for ten millennia.

Farmers once knew how to make a living fence and fed their flocks on tree-branch hay. Rural people knew how to prune hazel to foster abundance: both of edible nuts and of straight, strong, flexible rods for bridges, walls and baskets. Townspeople cut beeches to make charcoal to fuel ironworks.

Shipwrights shaped oaks to make hulls. In order to prosper communities cut their trees so they would sprout again. Pruning the trees didn't destroy them. Rather, it created healthy, sustainable and diverse woodlands. From these woods came the poetic landscapes of Shakespeare's England and of ancient Japan. The trees lived longer.

William Bryant Logan traveled from the English fens to Spain, California and Japan to rediscover and celebrate what was once a common and practical ecology – finding hope that humans may again learn what the persistence and generosity of trees can teach, and the reader can travel with him on that journey through the book.

I found this book very easy to read and times it felt like reading a novel in that one did not want to put the book down. Even as a professional forester and someone who has worked with coppice a great I learned more than I would have thought possible. It is definitely a vividly insightful exploration of tree regeneration and I enjoyed every minute.

We all, foresters, woodland workers and everyone else really, should, if we not already do, share the vision of the author of a world in which humans and trees work together to mutual benefit; a world that has existed in the past and can exist again in the future.

© 2019

Chemicals from sunscreen products do seep into bloodstream

Sunscreen chemicals seep into bloodstream a new study by the FDA confirms

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Summer is on the way (well, at least according to the seasons) and soon everyone will be lathering on sunscreen and more of it onto their children to protect them from the possible impact of the light of the sun. But beware, the stuff is not as harmless as claimed. Maybe gently adjusting to the sun and its effects would be better than chemicals.

Sunscreen companies have long claimed the chemicals in their products are not absorbed into the body. Turns out the companies were rather economical with the truth and they are.
Today's sunscreens contains more chemicals at higher concentrations than they did 50 years ago and sunscreens are also applied much more frequently.

It is these two facts have prompted the FDA to re-evaluate the safety of sunscreen.

First the agency conducted a study to determine whether the chemicals used as active ingredients in the products are absorbed into the bloodstream, which the industry has denied.

“Because sunscreens are formulated to work on the surface of the skin, some have argued that sunscreens would not be absorbed in appreciable quantities and therefore that studies are unnecessary,” the agency said in a press release. (

The study, published May 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the opposite to be true. The chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream at concerning levels.

The 24 participants in the study were instructed to apply sunscreen four times per day for four days on all areas that wouldn't be covered by a swimsuit, an amount one might realistically apply on a beach vacation.

Researchers then measured the concentration of four different active ingredients in their blood: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.

After just one day, all four chemicals were found in levels that far exceed the level at which the FDA requires safety testing (anything higher than .5 nanograms per milliliter).

For oxybenzone, which has been found along with other sunscreen ingredients in breast milk, blood concentrations reached the threshold after a single application and exceeded 20 nanograms per milliliter on day 7 of the study.

Oxybenzone is also toxic to coral reefs, which has led Hawaii to ban sunscreens that contain it.
Three of the chemicals remained in the bloodstream seven days later.

Now the FDA must conduct further studies on all four ingredients before they can be considered generally safe and effective.

Specifically the agency needs to determine whether the chemicals the risk for cancer, birth defects, or other adverse effects.

“With sunscreens now being used with greater frequency, in larger amounts, it is more important than ever to ensure that sunscreens are safe and effective for daily, life-long use,” the press release says.

“Creation of sunscreen products with SPFs greater than 15 and greater broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays have led to currently marketed products with more active ingredients combined together in higher concentrations than were previously used.”

The FDA recommends continuing to use sunscreen while the chemicals are being studied, claiming the risks of sunburn outweigh the risks of sunscreen, but considering they haven't weighed those risks yet, it may be wise to take their advice with a grain of salt.

While too much exposure to the rays of the sun can cause damage the biggest problem that, when vising the beach, people tend to immediately plonk down in the sun to be frizzled. Proper and gentle acclimatization, over a couple of days is called for and also avoiding actually going for a roasting. How is our body to respond when generally we are all covered up and then, suddenly, we, including the kids, bare (if not all then most of it) and sit or lie out in the hot sun when at other times we rarely expose out skin to the elements and the rays of the sun?

It would appear that we need to apply not sunscreen but proper common sense and not immediately be out in the hot sun and especially not going for a roasting.

© 2019