Mr. President, as families prepare for Memorial Day festivities, and plan outings this summer, most will be outdoors without adequate sun protection, even if they use sunscreen.
This is because there are currently no rules that sunscreen makers must follow when making claims about the level of protection their products provide.
Currently, sunscreen products are only required to protect against UVB rays, the rays that cause tans and sunburns and the level of protection is documented with a Sun Protection Factor, SPF. Unfortunately, even these numbers can be misleading or worse, inaccurate. Researchers have found that a sunscreen product with a SPF of 30 protects against 98 percent of the sun's UVB rays, while a sunscreen labeled with a SPF of 100 protects against 99 percent of the sun's UVB rays. The larger the SPF number doesn't always result in significantly better protection.
Moreover, sunscreen products are not required to protect against cancer-causing UVA rays. UVA rays actually penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause more damage. Some sunscreens and products containing sun protection claim to protect against these rays, but there are no scientific standards by which to measure their validity.
We have seen the effects that a lack of reliable sun protection can have in the rising rates of melanoma in this country, which has doubled in the past 30 years. This year alone, over 2 million people will be informed that they have a preventable form of skin cancer. My state of Rhode Island is among the top ten for reported melanoma diagnoses.
After years of working with my colleagues to press the Food and Drug Administration to act, in August of 2007, the FDA finally proposed a rule that would require sunscreen labels to disclose the level of UVA protection in a standard format that appears near the sun protection factor rating, and ensure that the SPF rating actually corresponds to a product's protection against UVB rays. This was a step in the right direction. The downside is that nearly 4 years later this proposal has still not been finalized.
For this reason, today I am introducing the Sunscreen Labeling Protection Act, the SUN Act, along with my colleagues, Senators Schumer, Kerry, Leahy, and Franken. This legislation would require the FDA to finalize the sunscreen labeling monograph. If the FDA fails to finalize its proposed monograph of August 27, 2007 within 180 days of enactment of the SUN Act, the monograph, as proposed, would become effective. I look forward to a summer when Americans can finally feel protected from the sun's harmful rays.