FDA Criticized Over Sunscreen Regulation

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The Cancer Prevention Coalition has criticized the FDA for failing to properly regulate sunscreens that it believes contain toxic ingredients.

The Chicago-based group claims that organic (or chemical) sunscreens pose scientifically well-documented risks that are being ignored by the industry and the FDA.

“Sunscreens are based on six ingredients, a number of which are penetration enhancers, actively forcing their way through the skin,” says Samuel Epstein, chairman of the group.

Some of the ingredients, including oxybenzone, are thought to be endocrine disruptors, interfering with the hormonal system. In addition, according to Epstein, chemical sunscreens provide no protection for the consumer against the longer wavelength UVA rays.

Instead, he says that they actually can increase the risk of skin cancer because they encourage consumers, especially young people, to remain in the sun for longer periods. Although they may not be burning, they are not protected against the damage caused by UVA rays, he adds.

Epstein says that, in order to be protected against UVA rays, consumers must turn to sunscreen containing inorganic or mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) or zinc oxide (ZnO). However, even these inorganic ingredients are controversial for Epstein and the coalition because an increasing number of manufacturers are turning to TiO2 and ZnO particles in the nano range in order to improve product performance, which Epstein calls “the single most serious potential hazard in the field of personal care.”

The Cancer Prevention Coalition is calling on the FDA to improve sunscreen regulation and argues that the current status quo is just one example of the overwhelming ignorance and indifference of the FDA and its president. Specifically, the coalition is asking for a Sunscreen Labeling Act modeled on California’s Safe Cosmetics Act of 2007.

Earlier this year, the Personal Care Products Council reacted to a similar complaint from the Environmental Working Group by reassuring the safety of sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone.

“Oxybenzone is approved by FDA, the European Union and Canada as a safe and effective sunscreen ingredient,” says the council’s chief scientist John Bailey. “This unfortunate attack on sunscreen products is an unjustified attempt to discredit an extensive, long-standing body of scientific data.”

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