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FDA criticized over sunscreen regulation

By Katie Bird , 11-Aug-2008
Last updated on 12-Aug-2008 at 17:05 GMT

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,” chairman of the group Samuel Epstein told CosmeticsDesign.com.

Some of the ingredients, including oxybenzone, are thought to be endocrine disruptors, interfering with the hormonal system, he argues.

In addition, according to Epstein chemical sunscreens provide no protection for the consumer against the longer wavelength UVA rays.

Indeed, he argues that they increase the risk of skin cancer as 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 said.

For Epstein, in order to be protected against UVA rays consumers must turn to sun blocks (inorganic or mineral ingredients) such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) or zinc oxide (ZnO).

However, these inorganic ingredients remain controversial for Epstein and the Coalition as an increasing number of manufacturers are turning to TiO2 and ZnO particles in the nano range, in order to improve product performance.

Epstein calls the unlabelled inclusion of nanoparticles ‘the single most serious potential hazard in the field of personal care’.

Calling of FDA to improve regulation

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’.

It is calling for a Sunscreen Labeling Act modelled 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” said the Council’s chief scientist John Bailey.

In addition, Bailey questioned the rigor and reliability of the science behind the EWG’s claims, stating that the claims ‘unnecessarily alarm consumers’.

“This unfortunate attack on sunscreen products is an unjustified attempt to discredit an extensive, long-standing body of scientific data,” Bailey said.

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