We all know it's important to use sunscreen. But it's also important to check the label for ingredients that are safe for you and the environment.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit public health and environmental research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., studied nearly 1,000 brand-name sunscreens in 2009. Three in five did not adequately protect skin from the sun or contained harmful chemicals.

One controversial sunscreen ingredient is oxybenzone. It absorbs ultraviolet light, but research shows it also can be absorbed through the skin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study in 2008 showing that 97 percent of Americans it tested were contaminated with oxybenzone.

Oxybenzone is allowed in sunscreens, but recent research has linked it to allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. It's bad for the environment, too. Researchers believe oxybenzone, once washed down the drain or off swimmers' bodies, contributes to the feminizing of certain species of male fish in our oceans, rivers and lakes.

So why is oxybenzone still considered "safe" in sunscreens? Unfortunately, the Federal Drug and Food Administration, which regulates sunscreen safety, has not updated mandatory sunscreen standards in more than 30 years.

What should you do? Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays but does not contain oxybenzone.

Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide are recommended by the Environmental Working Group.

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