Independence Day celebrations are supposed to be enjoyable. We barbecue, picnic, swim, and gather with family and friends. The holiday weekend is all about fun in the sun.
But the holiday also comes a few potential hazards that can result in discomfort or injury. Whether you’re heading to the beach, a lake or a backyard picnic, be sure to cover up to protect your skin against sunburns and pesky bug bites.
EWG suggests these tips to help keep you and your family healthy this Fourth of July:
To avoid sunburn and skin damage, picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella and take a canopy to the beach. As a rule of thumb, limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet radiation peaks – and seek shade whenever possible. Infants six months old or younger should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether. For children over six months, use sunscreen liberally and be sure to reapply it at least every two hours.
EWG updated its 2016 Guide to Sunscreens this week with more than 150 new products. The guide rates the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens, SPF-rated moisturizers and lip balms, and shows that they’re not all created equal. It includes a list of the 215 best beach and sports sunscreens so you can find one that’s right for you and your family.
- Dress children in protective clothing, such as light cotton fabric with a tight weave and wide-brimmed hats (not baseball caps) that shade the face, scalp, neck and ears.
- Choose a lotion instead of a spray. Sunscreen sprays pose inhalation risks and provide inadequate protection. If you must use a pump or spray, apply it to your hands first and then wipe it on your face and your children’s.
- Avoid products that contain retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A.
- Select a sunscreen with an SPF greater than fifteen but less than 50.
- Give your children quality sunglasses that provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
Many families and groups of friends will gather around a table or blanket this weekend to enjoy a feast. Everyone wants to eat healthier, but it’s not always easy to know how. That’s where EWG’s Food Scores database comes in. As you walk the store aisles or compile your shopping list, Food Scores will guide you to greener, cleaner food choices. Keep in mind – less is more: the lower the score, the healthier the food.
- When you jot down your shopping list, check out EWG’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Strawberries top this year’s Dirty Dozen list of produce with the most pesticide residues, followed by apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. In government testing, nearly all conventionally grown strawberry samples – 98 percent – were positive for pesticide residues.
- Don’t forget to also whip out EWG’s Clean Fifteen. It lists the produce least likely to have pesticide residues, including avocados, corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, honeydew melon, grapefruit, cantaloupe and cauliflower.
- Year-round, be sure to eat more whole fruits and vegetables. Nutritionists recommend that adults and children consume at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily. Be sure to load up on organic strawberries, early-season corn and fresh pineapple.
- If you plan to grill meat this weekend, make sure to cook it to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Hamburgers can turn brown before they reach a safe temperature. Always use a food thermometer to ensure that meat is cooked enough to kill potentially deadly E. coli bacteria
- Don’t leave perishable food – including cooked meat, potato salad, coleslaw and corn – at room temperature for more than two hours. Doing so can allow bacteria can grow to harmful levels. If the temperature outside reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, refrigerate perishables within an hour.
Bug bites can be serious business. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika virus is spread primarily by the bites of infected mosquitos. And then there’s West Nile virus, which is also carried by mosquitoes and was reported in 48 states and the District of Columbia last year, as well as Lyme disease – spread by ticks – which has more than doubled over the last 15 years. These and other pest-borne diseases can have serious and sometimes life-altering consequences.
Your first line of defense is to avoid areas where these bugs are prevalent. The second is to cover up. If you’re going to use an insect repellent, visit EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents before you buy. Remember:
- Shirts, pants and hats provide the best protection from insect bites. Your arsenal should include a long-sleeved, light-colored shirt, long pants and a hat.
- Wash your hands after applying repellent and be sure to wash repellent-coated skin and clothes at the end of the day.
- Use nets and fans over outdoor eating areas.
- Don’t use bug repellent on infants younger than six months old. Instead, cover strollers and baby carriers with fine netting.
- Check your kids thoroughly for ticks every night and properly remove any bugs.