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US senators call for FDA to reverse decision to delay sunscreen standards implementation

By Andrew McDougall , 23-May-2012
Last updated on 24-May-2012 at 09:16 GMT

A group of senators in the US are asking the FDA to reverse its decision to delay sunscreen rules and put new standards in place for the summer.

The group, led by Jack Reed, a Democratic representative from Rhode Island, have sent a letter to FDA in a bid to ensure sunscreen labels are clear, accurate and provide consumers with the information they need to protect themselves.

Senators Reed, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders, and Chuck Schumer sent a letter asking the FDA to "reverse the recent decision to delay these critical regulations and to do more to ensure that consumers can purchase sunscreen products and products containing sun protection with the knowledge that they meet FDA's enforceable standards."

Hold up

Last June, the FDA ordered comprehensive new sunscreen regulations that were scheduled to go into effect on June 18, 2012. But this month the FDA announced it is now giving the industry an extra six months to make changes, meaning they will take effect in mid-December instead of this summer.

Reed has even stated that some small manufacturers will have their deadlines to comply pushed back to December 2013.

The rules were designed to give consumers better information about the effectiveness of over-the-counter sunscreens, and will for the first time allow the bottles, tubes and sprays to say that sunscreens protect against skin cancer and early skin aging.

FDA criticism

In a statement responding to the issue, Reed criticized the FDA for failing to protect consumers.

"Quality sunscreen offers critical protection, particularly during the summer months when millions of Americans head outdoors and to the beach. The FDA simply isn't giving consumers the protection they deserve," said Reed, who wrote the Sunscreen Labeling Protection Act to prod the FDA to strengthen sunscreen labeling standards.

"For too long the FDA has allowed manufacturers to get away with inaccurate claims about sun protection. The FDA has been considering regulations to restrict these claims since 1978. It is time for them to stop dragging their feet and put the new sunscreen safety and labeling standards into effect," Reed said.

Proposed regulation

As part of the proposed changes sunscreens can only be labelled ‘broad spectrum’ if they block both UVA and UVB rays.

Products with SPFs below 15 must display a warning that it has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging and the terms ‘sunblock,’ ‘sweatproof,’ and ‘waterproof’ will no longer be permitted.

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, whilst they may no longer claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without submitting test results to prove it.

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