FDA sunscreen labels plan blasted by watchdog group

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FDA sunscreen labels plan not strong enough to protect Americans from sun damage and skin cancer, group says
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(CBS) A prominent health advocacy group is shining a harsh light on the FDA's new rules for sunscreen labels.

The rules - which come after decades of deliberation - are intended to help eliminate misleading claims about sun protection factors, water resistance, and cancer and wrinkle prevention, as CBS News reported on Tuesday.

"These changes to sunscreen labels are an important part of helping consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families," Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a written statement.

But the Environmental Working Group is calling the changes too little, too late.

"FDA's action offers some noticeable improvements for consumers, such as limiting misleading claims" Dr. David Andrews, a senior scientist with the Washington, D.C.-based group, said in a written statement. "However, it is clear that FDA caved to industry and weakened its safety standards."

Andrews said the rules include a weak standard for protection against UVA rays, making it hard for consumers to tell good sunscreens from mediocre ones. And, he said, the rules will allow most products to use the words "broad spectrum sunscreen" on the label even though there's no assurance that the products really do offer protection against the rays that cause skin damage.

"About 20 percent of products that meet the new FDA standards could not be sold in Europe, where UVA standards are strict," he said.

The group also criticized the FDA for continuing to allow oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate and other sunscreen ingredients to be used despite concerns over their safety.

What does the FDA have to say about the criticism? A call placed to the agency wasn't returned in time for inclusion in this article.

Whatever the value of the new sunscreen labeling guidelines, there's no doubt that Americans could use some help avoiding skin cancer - the most common form of cancer in the U.S. The CDC says that in 2007 - the most recent year for which statistics are available - the disease struck 58,094 Americans and killed 8,461.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has more on skin cancer and sunscreen.

  • David W Freeman

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