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Biology, chemistry, Uncategorized

Plants need sunscreen too

With some gorgeous sunny days happening (and yes we could talk climate change) the topic of sunscreen has come to mind. We have to coat ourselves in sunscreen to protect our DNA from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light (specifically UV-B), but are we really that different from plants who bask in the sunshine all day long?

Well for years when I would take kids (and adults) on nature walks I would show them the fine powder on the trunk of the trembling aspen. This powder is a natural sunscreen. It turns out that many plants have the ability to protect themselves from the harmful UV-B radiation, while simultaneously absorbing the light wavelengths that allow them to photosynthesize.

The most beneficial molecule is sinapoyl malate (C15H16O9). This molecule absorbs  all wavelengths of UV-B making it one of the most efficient  UV-B blocking molecules. There is no new sunscreen on the way though because our current sunscreens also have active ingredients that absorb all of the UV-B wavelengths.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/UVB/

https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/11953815#section=Top

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About Peyto

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities. Peyto is a reference to Bill Peyto who was an outfitter, trapper, and eventually a park warden in Banff National Park. Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier are both named after him. He is also a distant relative of mine.

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