To The Point

July 08, 2008

SPF is not enough

A recent study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group raised serious questions about the effectiveness of many sunscreens. Among the findings: Many products fail to offer protection from all forms of ultraviolet radiation, and common claims such as "all-day protection" are misleading at best. With summer vacation season fully under way, families who plan to spend time outdoors should not only be cautious about what sunscreens they buy (SPF rating of at least 15 and both UVA and UVB protection are a minimum) but also follow the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for protecting oneself against skin cancer. That includes seeking shade, particularly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and covering up with clothing and a wide-brim hat.

Sunburn is more than an inconvenience; it raises the risk of skin melanoma. It would be helpful to consumers if the Food and Drug Administration took a more aggressive approach with sunscreen safety standards that are in draft form and have yet to go into effect.

Catch and release

It didn't take long for Marcus Anderson, a convicted drug dealer scheduled to appear in Baltimore Circuit Court last week on gun charges, to figure out how to evade the long arm of justice. When the state corrections van transporting him through downtown stopped at a red light, he simply hopped out the door and sprinted away.

Deborah Barron, the corrections officer driving the van, later said she assumed her supervisors wanted her to bring Mr. Anderson to Baltimore from the detention facility in Jessup after she missed handing him off to the regular transport unit assigned to the job.

One problem: Officer Barron's van had no lock-up, handcuffs, radios or other security features. She didn't even have a cell phone for emergencies. Still, she put the prisoner in the front seat beside her and drove off. What was she thinking? Authorities have launched an investigation.

It's easy to deride Officer Barron's poor judgment in putting a dangerous felon on the honor system. But higher-ups also bear some responsibility for this foul-up. If Officer Barron wasn't thinking clearly, they seem not to have been thinking at all.

Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson is still on the loose (though that didn't prevent a jury from finding him guilty on the gun charges).

The next time they nab him, let's hope they can keep him.

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