Sunscreen and Vaccine Adjuvants: As Harmless as You Are Led to Believe?

May 13, 2019 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Sunscreen and Vaccine Adjuvants: As Harmless as You Are Led to Believe?
Imagine being told to consume or use something that appears harmless and is encouraged by those with knowledge and stature. The product is initially considered safe, but then is tested a bit more. You are told that is okay and that it really doesn’t affect the body and not much else is said. Then years later, it is revealed that exposure from the product does get in your body with reports of potential harm in other uses. The pattern is then followed by authorities launching deeper investigations and yet you are still encouraged to use the product.

Throughout the years, we have seen this occur as a theme and variation. History provides examples that include asbestos and lung disorders, thalidomide and birth defects, lead paint and learning disabilities, BPA, thyroid and other endocrine cancers, talcum powder and ovarian cancer, tobacco use, second hand smoke and lung cancer, and more recently Round-up/glyphosate and cancerEMF/electromagnetic field exposure and cancer, and blue light and macular degeneration. The harm may not occur to everyone exposed to it, but none-the-less, some are more affected than others.

In the past few days, two studies have been published that may seem unrelated to each other, yet they are part of this theme and variation. The first relates to the recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article that has stirred things up across the country and pertains to chemicals found in sunscreens. The second study pertains to a small but influential study on vaccination adjuvants and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the development of ASIA (autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants).

JAMA Sunscreen Study


The May 6, 2019 JAMA sunscreen study evaluated 24 adults to determine whether or not active ingredients found in commercially available sunscreens were absorbed into the bloodstream. After just one day of use at maximum dose, sunscreen chemicals were found in the bloodstream of the participants for at least 24 hours after the product was stopped.

This amount of application dose exceeded the acceptable chemical threshold established by the FDA and has now led to a government safety investigation. The four common chemicals identified were avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, and octocrylene. Of these four compounds, oxybenzone reached 50-100 times higher concentration levels than the other three chemicals tested.

The study concluded “These results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen.” Further commentary in a CNN interview by Dr David Leffell, a Yale School of Medicine Dermatologist and spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology said that further studies need to be done and that people should “continue to be aggressive about sun protection” and continue using sunscreen.

Government officials and other agencies have emphasized that the study results should not be cause for alarm and that you should keep using your sunscreen as “the sun is the enemy”. They of course recommend more research and further investigation. You be the judge. Here is a recent sample of studies that reflect current concerns not discussed in the JAMA study.

A Different Perspective


Research published on oxybenzone shows troubling effects, but the results come back with “more research is needed”. A May 2018 study in the Journal of the Endocrine Society demonstrated that oxybenzone changed the mammary gland (breast tissue) in offspring that were exposed to this chemical during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Oxybenzone is an endocrine disrupting compound, i.e. an estrogen promoting compound. In this animal study, mice were exposed to levels similar to what humans experience through sunscreen and personal care items with oxybenzone. At the end of the study, the mammary glands were examined. Results showed “long-lasting alterations to mammary gland morphology and function”, i.e. breast cells were larger and had higher estrogen levels in offspring. The breast enlargement and changes were considered a permanent adverse change.

Avobenzone is considered a safe sunscreen and cosmetics chemical, but according to a recent 2016 study at Lomonosov Moscow State University, there is a fall-out from the product as the chemical degrades. When avobenzone is exposed to ultraviolet light/sunlight and chlorinated water, (salt/ocean/pool water) it degrades into no less than 25 other semi-volatile chemicals. These include compounds such as aromatic acids, aldehydes, phenols, and acetophenones which are considered hazardous persistent pollutants.

Benzophenone is another chemical of concern found commonly in personal care products with sunscreen protection. Studies note it is an endocrine disrupting compound affecting reproductive organs and function, but there is more.

A 2019 study evaluated benzophenone-2 to determine its impact on the brain. Animal studies showed that the application of the compound at 100 mg/kg for four weeks led to accumulation of the BP-2 in the blood and higher concentrations in the liver and adipose/fat tissue. Benzophenone was also able to pass through the blood-brain-barrier and then found at low concentrations in the frontal cortex and hippocampus post-mortem.

While this study did not find that it caused immediate stress to the brain, it is unknown what long-term exposure of these chemicals do to the brain because the study was stopped after just a few weeks. Think about this fact for a moment – this foreign chemical was readily able to cross the blood brain barrier. What is it doing there? How long can your brain tolerate an unknown substance? Your brain does not have a deficiency of benzophenones.

In reference to coral reef damage, a January 2019 study revealed that octocrylene (OC) harms the metabolism of coral reefs. Octocrylene was shown to accumulate within coral reef tissues with OC by-products. Accumulation of the metabolites and by-products of OC were found to injure mitochondria and caused fatty acid metabolism abnormalities within the coral reefs. Final comments expressed noted that the effect of the OC chemical on coral reef and its metabolism “may have been largely underestimated”.

Key West and Hawaii and possibly other areas have agreed to put a ban on certain sunscreens. It is to go in effect in 2021 in order to save the coral reefs that are dying as a result of the world wide sunscreen use.

The common sense thought is that if a foreign compound is present where it shouldn’t be, it creates a response. The body responds to it with extra work, cellular responses, and low-grade inflammation -- even if you can’t feel, see, smell, touch or taste it. If it happens even on a minute scale, wouldn’t you want to avoid it, especially if it is repetitive? There is an old joke that says a lot here. Patient says “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” The doc’s reply “Well, then don’t do that.” Have we walked away from this common sense? If it affects coral reef, is not also affecting human life?

As a healthy adult, a few exposures to low level chemicals will not cause the same level of heightened concern as a toxin with high level of exposure. However, everyone has a different capacity to handle low level exposures. Some individuals can handle exposure to chemicals or other compounds and they have no acute or chronic effects from it. Others will struggle long-term with the slightest exposure because they have lost immune tolerance. An example like this may be the person who develops Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after a vaccination. This is another variation to the theme discussed above.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Aluminum Adjuvants


Earlier this month, powerful findings on vaccine adjuvants linked with post-immunization changes in health were published. A small, yet stout study published in the May 2019 Autoimmunity Reviews publication “have turned old dogma upside down.”

The study focused on the development of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) following immunizations that contained aluminum adjuvants. Clinical, experimental and epidemiological evidence proved that ME/CFS may result as a “major type of adverse effect of vaccines” especially those that contain aluminum adjuvants. Aluminum adjuvants are intentionally added to vaccines to trigger low level inflammation and activate the immune system’s response to the vaccine.

What they found in body’s response after injection of the vaccine with the aluminum adjuvant was contrary to what had been previously believed true. Findings showed that instead of the aluminum adjuvant being rapidly contained and broken down, the aluminum particles were grabbed by immune cells and transported to distant organs and the brain. This provoked an inflammatory response and selective low dose long-term neurotoxicity. Symptoms noted were attention difficulties, memory issues, altered brain perfusion with blood flow and metabolism. Their final statement was “Post-immunization ME/CFS represents the core manifestation of ‘autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants’ (ASIA).”

Historically, coal miners used canaries to detect the presence of dangerous gases of methane and carbon monoxide in mines before the advent of technology. If the canary died, its death warned the miners of the presence of hazardous gases even if they were doing okay. Many in the field of autoimmune disorders view patients with ME/CFS and other complex puzzling autoimmune disorders as the “canary in the coal mine.”

Immune Tolerance


Immune tolerance refers to the immune system not reacting to a substance or tissue when exposed. Loss of immune tolerance refers to the immune system attacking itself/your body in response to a stimulus like an infection or toxin. Our world is facing an alarming increase in autoimmune disorders and it is a global phenomenon.

Loss of immune tolerance generally does not happen overnight. It is a process that takes months or years of stress to the immune system. Prior to the development of an autoimmune disorder or a disease, there is a period of “silent autoimmunity”. Silent autoimmunity is the time before your immune system reaches the breaking point of full-blown disease presentation and pathological tissue damage, but small amounts of antibodies are being formed.

By the time you get a diagnosis of some disease like Lupus/SLE, Hashimoto’s, cancer, or any other autoimmune disorder, your body has been under duress for some time. It just reached a breaking point and enough damage is done to make a disease diagnosis.

World class immunologist expert Aristo Vojdani, PhD provides the outline of how a tiny chemical molecule (or infection) can provoke loss of health. First there is an initial exposure. Genetic susceptibility is present with a breakdown in the natural barriers found in the gut, brain, skin or lungs. As the chemical or trigger goes through the barrier, the body modifies it or tries to detoxify it. As the body tries to deal with the chemical, oxidative stress occurs and the modified chemical/trigger binds to tissues where it shouldn’t be. It forms a type of antigen.

This triggers the immune system to activate either T-Cells or B-Cells and other immune cells. As a result, it causes some combination of proinflammatory cytokine production or antibody production. As it progresses further, an autoimmune reaction and eventually enough damage has occurred, and the disorder develops.

Individual tolerance varies greatly from person to person. Until you meet that threshold of no longer having chemical tolerance or immune tolerance, chemical exposures are often shrugged off, readily dismissed and in many cases largely not understood. We all must be diligent about understanding this milieu of chemical soup that we live in – before there is loss of immune tolerance and autoimmune disorders develop. This includes your choices as an individual and as a parent or other responsible adult.

In the case of sun protection, there are other resources besides chemical sunscreens. You can avoid or limit sun exposure especially at peak hours, wear protective clothing, and provide physical barrier sunscreens with zinc oxide rather than the chemical barrier sunscreens. You can also use nutritional support to help nourish and assist your skin with sun exposure.

Your body actually needs sunshine for many things including vitamin D, serotonin, melatonin, circadian rhythms, body clocks, and more. There is no doubt that skin cancer is significant problem, but don’t forget that your skin needs many different types of antioxidants for daily protection. These include lutein, carotenes and vitamin A, vitamin D, r-alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extract, and more. You may learn more about this in the article Sun Protection: What Makes Sense?

Other articles about chemical and endocrine disrupting compounds and ASIA helpful tips may be found below.

Meds, Toxins, and Obesity Cause Breast Enlargement in Men and Boys

Common Household Disinfectants Lead to Obesity in Preschoolers

Plastic Outrage – Children in Danger

Flouride Lowers IQ in Children

Maternal Inflammation and Autism 

Precocious Puberty – A Growing Dilemma for Today’s Children

Thyroid-Disrupting Triclosan Jumps Into the Frying Pan 

Vaccine Injury with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia 

We know that low level lead exposure from leaded gasoline and paints in the 1900’s—and more recently the Detroit water toxicity—caused ill effects that still persist. If we ponder the sunscreen chemicals and aluminum adjuvants exposure as creating a negative response somehow, somewhere - how much different are the other examples listed above? Yes, brilliant minds, numerous expensive experiments to reproduce and simulate exposure in cell, animal, and then finally human studies will make its way into the literature. Even then, experts will often say more research is needed.

A practical, common sense approach must be available for today’s needs as we come into summer season where recommendations are made to routinely and liberally apply chemical sunscreens. In addition, individuals of all ages and even family pets are being inundated with vaccine recommendations at office visits with the media and governments promising safety and protection from disease. Your body can take only so much before it succumbs to chronic low-level stress. It is the little cracks in the foundation that mount up to larger cracks and eventually structural failure. How much can your body handle?

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