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Emerging Science Note/SoyScreen

Air Date: Week of

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


CURWOOD: Coming up, oil and war in the tropical heat of Colombia. 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)]

CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living On Earth, I'm Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: West African Balafon Ensemble “Farfina” The Pulse of Life - Ellipsis (1992)]

CURWOOD: "Out on the Safari," writes Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa, "I had seen a herd of buffalo, 129 of them, come out of the morning midst, under a copper sky, one by one, as if the dark and massive iron-like animals with the mighty horizontally swung horns were not approaching, but were being created before my eyes, and sent out as they were finished. I had, time after time, watched the progression across the plain of the giraffe, in their queer, inimitable vegetative gracefulness, as if it were not a herd of animals, but a family of rare, long-stemmed, speckled, gigantic flowers slowing advancing.

I had followed two rhinos on their morning promenade, when they were sniffing and snorting in the air of the dawn, which is so cold that it hurts in the nose, and looked like two very big angular stones rollicking in the long valley and enjoying life together."

Thanks to Heritage Africa, you too can experience the wild as Dinesen did. Living On Earth is giving away a 15-day day trip for two on the ultimate African Safari, with visits to several of Africa's most spectacular game preserves, such as Kruger and the Serengeti. For more details about how to win this 15-day African Safari, just go to our website, loe.org. That's www.loe.org, for the trip of a lifetime.

[MUSIC: Carlos Guedes “Harposauras” A World Instrumental Collection - Putumayo (1996)]



National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research site on SoyScreen


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