This month, in anticipation of the summer season, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued its report on sunscreens, labeling, and efficacy.Â While the report unearthed some uncomfortable truths about the sunscreen market, it does not mean that consumers should not use them.Â For example, the report controversially notes that there may be insufficient evidence that sunscreens prevent cancer and may in fact increase the risk of certain cancers and may contain skin damaging ingredients.Â There is also no proof that the highest SPF ratings are any better than their lower counterparts.Â However, as dangerous as the sun may be, it is necessary to the bodyâ€™s vitamin D needs.Â Most remarkable may be the fact that the European market for sunscreens is better as there are more options in UVA ingredients.Â The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Â (FDA) is also called to task for failing to properly address these issues.
As the EWG notes â€śIn June 2011 the FDA announced new rules on labeling and effectiveness testing for sunscreens. They will ban the use of misleading claims like â€śsunblock,â€ť â€śwaterproofâ€ť and â€śsweatproofâ€ť and define which sunscreens can claim â€śbroad spectrumâ€ť protection. FDA recently granted a 6 month delay in the implementation of these rules, until mid-December 2012. But even when implemented many gaps will remain.â€ť Smaller companies have an even more generous deadline of December 2013. On May 21, 2012,U.S.Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand urged the FDA to abandon this their recently announced timeline for new standards as it would allow manufacturers to continue to put products on the shelf this summer without updated labels.Â The Senators are pushing for new regulations because the current regulations leave numerous loopholes that allow sunscreen companies to claim protections and safety that they fail to achieve.
Among the changes FDA is supposed to make:
- In order for sunscreens to be labeled as “Broad Spectrum” they must block both UVA and UVB rays.Â UVA rays cause skin aging; UVB rays cause sunburn. Both can cause cancer.
- Products with SPFs below 15 must display a warning that it has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.
- The terms “sunblock,” “sweatproof,” and “waterproof” will no longer permitted.Â Sunscreens may claim to be “water-resistant,” but must specify whether they protect skin for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, based on standard testing.
- Products may no longer claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without submitting test results to prove it.
- All sunscreens must include standard “Drug Facts” information on the back or side of the container.
So for the Memorial Day holidays, consumers have additional reasons to be aware as they head to the neighborhood pools or to the beach.