Coalition Calls on FDA to Mandate Safer Sunscreens

| by Environmental Working Group

With school out soon and the summer sun season around the corner, a broad coalition of scientists, medical professionals, companies and public health groups has called on the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt regulations that assure safer, more effective sunscreens.

Ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation, which does not cause sunburn, is suspected of causing skin cancer and premature aging. According to current statistics, about 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. Yet sunscreen makers are not required to substantiate marketing claims that their products offer protection from UVA rays.

“As a result, consumers may receive unexpectedly high UVA exposure when using products that actually provide low or no UVA protection,” the coalition wrote Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The letter urged FDA to assess certain ingredients in sunscreens manufactured for markets outside the U.S.

“U.S. sunscreen manufacturers cannot use a number of active ingredients believed to be safer and more effective,” the coalition letter said. “…For instance, there are at least 29 ultraviolet filters approved for use in the European Union, compared to just 17 filters approved in the U.S. Newer active ingredients may offer manufacturers the capability to create safer products with superior UV protection.”

The FDA announced its plans to address sunscreen safety and effectiveness in 1978. The regulations contemplated at that time have never been put into force. In 2007 the FDA proposed a new set of regulations that, for the first time, would establish standardized measuring and labeling requirements for UVA protection in sunscreens.

“Despite this promising advance,” the coalition wrote, “ industry and consumers alike still await final standards to ensure that all sunscreens are as safe and effective as possible.”

The coalition, led by Environmental Working Group, dermatologist Steven Q. Wang of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Alpha R&D Ltd., a research and product development company, has asked the FDA to finalize its sunscreen regulations this year and to expedite its review of new ingredients that could enhance the products’ sun protections.

Photo by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr