Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Madeleinne. Madeleinne Wonders, “What is albinism” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Madeleinne!

Have you ever seen an albino animal? You may have without realizing it. If you’ve spotted a white creature with pink eyes, it may have had albinism.

Albinism can affect human beings and animals. It’s been seen in birds, fish, and amphibians. It can even affect plants! Those with this condition have less pigment or color in their skin. This leads them to appear very pale compared to others.

Have you ever WONDERed where the color of your skin, eyes, and hair comes from? It’s caused by a chemical called melanin. This is produced by cells in the skin called melanocytes. Those with albinism produce very little melanin. As a result, their skin, eyes, and/or hair (or fur or feathers!) lack color.

Do you or someone you know have albinism? If so, you know it can cause people to be very sensitive to sunlight.  That’s because, in addition to providing color, melanin also protects the skin. People with albinism must wear strong sunscreen whenever they spend time outdoors. Many also wear sunglasses outside to shield their eyes.

Where does albinism come from? It’s a genetic condition. This means it’s passed down from parents to children. Even if parents aren’t affected by albinism, they can pass it on to children if they have the gene.

How common is albinism? It affects about one of every 17,000 people in the United States. It’s usually not a life-threatening condition, though. If you have albinism, remember to protect your skin. A doctor can also help you learn about other ways to stay safe outside.

Not everyone with pale skin has albinism. Likewise, not all white animals are albinos. And whether you have albinism or not, it’s important to protect your skin! Always wear sunscreen if you plan to spend time outdoors.

Standards: NGSS.LS3.A, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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