6/02/2011 — 

WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to help Americans better protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today led a letter urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finalize new sunscreen regulations and prevent misleading labeling of sunscreen products.

“We continue to be disappointed that the FDA has not prioritized the implementation of meaningful, enforceable standards for sunscreen products that includes standards for both UVA and UVB protection.  Millions of Americans purchase and use over-the-counter sunscreen products and assume they are protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays.  But the current protection that they are afforded by these products is misleading at best,” wrote Senators Reed, Tom Harkin (D-IA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Pat Leahy (D-VT), John Kerry (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). 

The FDA has been considering updating sunscreen regulations since 1978 and finally released a proposed rule in 2007, but it still has yet to be finalized.

Reed, the author of the proposed Sunscreen Labeling Protection (SUN) Act, has been working for years to prod the FDA to strengthen labeling and testing standards for sunscreen products.  The SUN Act would give the FDA 180 days to finalize and put into place its new standards.

Currently, the FDA only requires sunscreen testing and labeling for sun protection factors (SPF), which mostly measures UVB rays, known for causing sunburns.  But there is no consistency in the SPF number and its protection from UVB rays and there are no current standards that apply to UVA protection.  UVA rays are a major cause of skin cancer and premature aging.  And under the current system, manufacturers may make unproven claims that their products are “waterproof” and “sweatproof,” and offer “all day protection.”  They also have increasingly high SPF numbers, leaving consumers confused and/or with the false impression that they are getting total protection from the sun.

“This is a public health issue and a consumer-rights issue.  Americans should know the sunscreen products they purchase are safe, effective, and easy to understand so they may better protect themselves and their children from the sun’s harmful rays.  And sunscreen manufacturers should be required to back up their claims with scientific evidence,” stated Reed. 

In their letter, the senators asked the FDA to explain the status of the regulation review process and asked “When will consumers be able to purchase sunscreen products that meet the new standards?  In the meantime, what is the agency doing to ensure that consumers are not purchasing products that do not actually offer the advertised level of protection?”