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Lack of Sunscreen Regulations Means Danger for Consumers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is taking aim at the FDA who they say has been “irresponsible” for not issuing sunscreen regulations. What that means is that sunscreen manufacturers are still not required to prove claims that lotions and oils are waterproof or really carry the amount of protection labeled on the bottle, posing danger for consumers who may be lulled into believing their skin is protected from UVBA and UVA rays that can cause cancer and damage the skin.

The EWG says it has been 32 years since the FDA started writing sunscreen regulations, but they have yet to issue final regulations. Some manufacturers of sunscreens are facing litigation for false claims – there are nine class action lawsuits against sunscreen manufacturers.

Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group says the FDA has acted irresponsibly for not addressing regulation of sunscreens that may or may not be waterproof, carry the SPF protection advertised or truly last for hours. According to Houlihan, the FDA is...”decades late in getting this done."

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Sunscreens that guarantee protection above SPF 50 might be misleading, causing concern among some dermatologists and scientists who say sun bathers might develop a false sense of security about protection from the sun’s rays. Out of 500 sunscreens analyzed by the Environment Working Group, only 39 are recommended.

The FDA is planning on publishing their final ruling in October, but the regulations would not take effect for another year. For now, just because sunscreen has a high SPF number, it doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun all day. Lack of sunscreen regulation by the FDA means you could be risking the health of your skin.

In 1999 the FDA issued sunscreen regulations but they were never put into effect following protests from the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. The FDA decided the sunscreen regulations were not comprehensive. Manufacturers have no obligation to follow the rules, leaving consumers in danger of believing the products are really protecting from skin damage and skin cancer.

Lack of sunscreen regulations may be putting consumers in danger. Recommendations are to reapply you sunscreen frequently, don’t stay too long in the sun, wear protective clothing, and remain wary of exaggerated claims regarding sunscreen protection. You can look up your sunscreen here to see if it is really protective, or if there are skin cancer promoting ingredients in the product.