FDA Blocking Sunscreen

September 28th, 2018

Melanoma is no laughing matter. A big factor is how much exposure people get to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. We are all for holding responsible parties to account, but it’s hard to hold the sun accountable.

So if you go out in the sun, as the song goes, wear sunscreen. But will that be enough? Not necessarily.

UV radiation of concern comes in two types, A and B. There are other types, but these are filtered by the atmosphere, so we won’t cover those. UV A radiation causes wrinkles and is what causes you to tan. It may also contribute to skin cancer. UV B is the radiation that reddens your skin and causes sunburn, and we have proof that this radiation causes cancer. Yet sunscreen protects us, right?

You’d think so. But the sunscreen we can get in the US may be subpar. The FDA regulates sunscreen as a drug. That means that companies have to jump through sixteen bajillion hoops to change their ingredients and give us more effective sunscreen. In Europe and Australia sunscreen is treated as a cosmetic so companies can change ingredients fairly quickly when they find more effective ingredients. That allows better protection from the sun. When is the last time the FDA approved a new ingredient for sunscreen? 2002.

On top of that, do you know how often the FDA test the sunscreens on the market?  No?  Me neither, because they don’t have a regular schedule.  According to William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumer’s Union, “Most of the time, a sunscreen’s effectiveness has been verified only by the manufacturer and any testing lab it might decide to use—and not by the government.”

So, are we getting burned by the sun, or the inaction of our own government? Perhaps it’s time for the FDA to stop blocking sunscreen.

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