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Sunscreen Labels Leave Consumers In The Dark

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, August 04, 2008 12:33 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Skin Cancer, Melanoma, FDA, Product Liability, Dangerous and Defective Products

The FDA has been slow to adopt new rules concerning sunscreen labels, and as a result consumers are left in the dark.



IMAGE SOURCE:  ©iStockphoto/ woman applying sunscreen/ author: monkeybusinessimages


Last summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed updating rules that would change the labels on sunscreens, giving sun-worshippers, and everyone else, more detailed information about the protection they offer. 

But it just hasn't happened.

Two U.S. senators introduced a bill Friday that would compel the FDA to make the regulations final so the labels can be changed. 

The FDA is moving at a slow pace, charges Senator Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. “The delay is happening for economic reasons,” Senator Dodd said to the New York Times.

The label changes were first announced in 1978.

As it stands now, sunscreens carry a sun protection factor (SPF) number system which rates the protection against sunburn, caused by short-wave ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

However many sunscreens do nothing to protect against ultraviolet A rays (UVA) which cause the skin to tan, but also are linked to melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.

"Most Americans probably assume their sunscreen protects them from the harmful rays that cause skin cancer," Rhode Island's Reed, the other sponsor of the bill,  said in a statement. "But unfortunately, with many products, that isn't the case."

The new rules require the manufacturers to also test the products concerning protection from UVA, a longer-wave ray.   

The labels would then contain the SPF number and a UVA four-star protection rating display, four-stars being the highest.  

Manufacturers would have to include a warning in a “Drug Facts” box on the sunscreen bottle against UV exposure and the risk of skin cancer, highest during the hottest part of the day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Manufacturers would have 24 months to comply with the label change after the FDA makes the rule final.  At an estimated $12,000 per product, 2,700 sunscreens would need to be tested.

Trade groups estimate it would cost industry more than $120 million to bring industry up to compliance. 

Sen. Dodd believes that price tag may be slowing down the process. 

The Sunscreen Labeling Protection Act of 2008, sponsored by Sen. Dodd and Senator Jack Reed, (D-RI), gives the FDA 180 days to make the new rules final.  During that time the FDA gathers public comments on the proposals.  After that time, without FDA approval, the rules would take effect regardless. 

Talking to CNN, Schering-Plough which makes Coppertone sunscreen, said it tests its products for UVA and UVB protection. Johnson & Johnson, which makes Neutrogena, says on its label that it too protects against both types of ultraviolet rays.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group based in Washington DC, looked at almost 1,000 brand-name sunscreen products and found that the majority contain chemicals that either potentially pose health hazards or inadequately protect skin from damaging sun rays.  Many on their list can be found at health food stores.

Every year more than 53,000 people in the U.S. learn they have melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and more than 1 million learn they have nonmelanoma skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.  #

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by linda w
Monday, August 04, 2008 2:43 PM EST

How much of the FDA's slow-down in regulation is due to the new Bush-appointee's replacing their more "people oriented" predecessors...?

Is this another area like the Justice Department and EPA, that needs to be investigated because of political conservative-ideology affiliation appointee's that favor doing nothing to protect consumers in order to aid "big business"?

Seems like we may need a wholesale replacement of such 'stallers' to put the US back on track in the areas of human rights and protections.

Comments for this article are closed.

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