New FDA rules (sun)block chemophobia

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As the sunny summer season gets into full swing, the FDA announced yesterday new rules that will help consumers to determine which sunscreens offer the best protection against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. In order to be considered broad spectrum, sunscreens must offer protection against UVB rays, which cause burning, as well as UVA rays, which lead to wrinkles, although both types of UV radiation may contribute to the development of skin cancer. In addition, only those sunscreens that contain a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15 are permitted to maintain that they help prevent sunburn and reduce the risks of skin cancer and early skin aging. On the other hand, claims that sunscreens are waterproof or sweatproof will not be allowed since the agency determined that these statements are false. Instead, labels must state how long the product will remain protective after water exposure. All rules will go into effect next year.

The new rulings are important, as sunscreens have been shown to prevent the three types of skin cancer: squamous cell cancer, recurrent basal cell cancer, and the only lethal type melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancer are the two most common skin cancers, affecting over two million Americans annually, while an additional 68,000 individuals are diagnosed with the dangerous melanoma.

Melanoma causes nearly nine thousands deaths per year, so using sunscreen is vital to preventing the onset of this potentially lethal form of skin cancer, advises ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross.

Aside from outlining the FDA s new sunscreen rules, The New York Times Gardiner Harris points out that the agency will be re-evaluating the safety of 17 sunscreen agents, even though there is currently no information suggesting that they are harmful. However, as we at ACSH already know, this still hasn t prevented some environmental activist groups from expressing concern over certain ingredients, despite the FDA s assertion that there is no evidence to cause any such concern. We know that all such reassurances will have no effect on the alarmist efforts to scare consumers about allegedly toxic ingredients, a well-known fundraising tool for such groups as the Environmental Working Group, notes Dr. Ross.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom adds, Sunscreens work by a chemical process that converts UV frequencies into benign infrared (heat) rays. He adds, With due apologies to environmental groups, I must point out that chemical reactions occasionally require chemicals. Should they wish to conduct research to the contrary, I wish them luck.