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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/SoyScreen

Air Date: Week of August 15, 2003

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Living on Earth’s Maggie Villiger reports on SoyScreen, a sunscreen made from soybean oil and bran.

Transcript

Coming up: thousands of years of human history come alive through the present day voices of the Bushmen of the Kalahari. First, this note on emerging science from Maggie Villiger.

[MUSIC: SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

VILLIGER: Everyone knows it's important to protect your skin from the sun. Now scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture have developed an all-natural way to ward off those damaging rays. Researchers were examining the chemical structure of ferulic acid, an antioxidant that's found in the cell walls of oat and rice bran. They noticed that ferulic acid's structure is remarkably similar to the UV-absorbing chemicals currently used in sunscreens, and they discovered it in fact shared their sun-protective properties. But on its own, ferulic acid would be an impractical sunscreen, since it's soluble in water, and no one wants a sunscreen that easily washes or sweats off.

So the scientists figured out how to combine soybean oil and ferulic acid to form a molecule that absorbs UV rays and doesn't dissolve in water. They dubbed it SoyScreen. The product's manufacturing process is environmentally benign, since it relies on a low-temperature reaction helped along by an enzyme that can be recycled repeatedly.

Another advantage: SoyScreen breaks down in the environment and doesn't bio-accumulate like other chemicals currently used as sunscreens. The company licensing SoyScreen hopes to test-market cosmetic products containing the new ingredient by the end of the year. That's this week's note on emerging science. I'm Maggie Villiger.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Gary Stroutsos “I am Walking” Winds Of Honor Makoche (1996)]

 

Links

National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research site on SoyScreen

 

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