Just as EWG released their new safe sunscreen guide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released some sunscreen news of their own. Apparently, due to pressure from two cosmetic industry groups – the Personal Care Products Council and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the FDA announced on May 11 that they’ll be delaying implementation of pending sunscreen regulations. The new, now delayed regulations mandate how sunscreens are labeled and marketed, and are supposed to make it easier for consumers to chose properly labeled sunscreen. This FDA decision comes as somewhat of a shock, since the new rules were announced a year ago after an already insane 30 years of deliberations. Now, simply because trade groups can’t get their act together and because the FDA lacks the will to enforce them, the new sunscreen regulations have been pushed back all the way to December 2012. Sadly, for consumers, this means we’ve got another whole summer of misleading sunscreen labels on the market.

What the New Regulations Mean for Sunscreen Companies

In case you missed the June 2011 announcement, the new FDA sunscreen regulations were created in order to clear up any misleading sunscreen claims. In fact, the FDA released a video about the new rules last June, as shown above. The new regulations, which were supposed to kick off in June 2012 were created to ensure the following:

  • Standard testing established for all over-the-counter sunscreen products, in order to determine which products are allowed to be labeled as “Broad Spectrum.
  • Any products passing the “Broad Spectrum” test must provide protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA).
  • Sunscreen products that manage to protect your skin against all types of sun-induced skin damage will be allowed to be labeled “Broad Spectrum” and “SPF 15” (or higher) on the front of the packaging.
  • Any sunscreen products that fail the broad spectrum test or that have SPF values from 2 to 14 will have to be labeled with a warning that reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.
  • Sunscreen manufacturers will no longer be allowed to claim that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof, or identify their products as “sunblocks.”

You may notice that the new regulations fail to consider chemicals in sunscreen, but most safe body care product advocates felt the new regulations were better than nothing. Now it’s kind of a moot point what people think, since the rules won’t be going into affect for a while.

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Image by Flickr User timatymusic

Why the New Regulations Are Being Pushed Back

Both the Personal Care Products Council and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association told the FDA that they needed more time in order to become compliant with the new regulations. Of course the FDA sided with these trade groups (not a shock), deciding that companies should be allowed more time. The FDA moved the regulation release date to December 17, 2012 for most companies. Smaller companies have until December 2013 to become compliant. This is obnoxious considering that EWG estimates that 90% of beach and sport sunscreens on the market are already in compliance with the FDA’s new rules. Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman says the regulations are being pushed back because, “We’re thinking proactively here… we don’t want [companies] to cease making sunscreens available this summer because they don’t think they’ll be able to meet the compliance date.” What the FDA should do is mandate the new rules as they said they would and simply shut down companies who haven’t met compliance. Environmental Working Group senior analyst Sonya Lunder notes, “We are baffled that FDA deems it necessary to delay such weak regulations. The agency has caved to industry pressure every step of the way. Consumers continue to be confused by these overblown claims. They can’t wait another season for these improvements to reach store shelves.

Due to these current FDA actions, on May 15, 2012, EWG submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FDA seeking records concerning the agency’s decision to delay its final sunscreen rule and to learn more about how it developed that rule. EWG points out that consumers have waited more than three decades for the federal government to assure the safety and efficiency of sunscreen products, which is far too long. EWG’s goal is to find out, “If the FDA is looking out for public health or is beholden to the industry.I’m guessing industry – but maybe that’s just me.

Lead Image by Flickr User earthlydelights