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Renewed Push In Albany For Sunscreen Expiration Labels

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As the weather heats up and sun worshipers flock to the beach, people are relying on sunscreen to keep them from getting burned. But what many people don't know is that some sunscreens expire.

You can find expiration dates on many bottles of sunscreen. But the date stamp is optional, and many manufacturers opt out, CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Friday.

Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, a former lifeguard whose wife has had melanoma, wants to require sunscreens sold in New York to display an expiration date. Weisenberg said sunscreens lose potency.

"Between two and three years, from the FDA, it diminishes," Weisenberg said. "Now this is a seasonal product. When was it produced? How long has it been in the pharmacy? How many years has it been taken on and off the shelf?"

For years his sunscreen bills have passed the Assembly, but Weisenberg said because of industry opposition it has failed to reach the state Senate.

The Personal Care Products Council, a trade group representing the cosmetics and skin care industry in Washington, released this statement on the proposal:

"Given today's advancements in formulation technology, sunscreens remain stable for many years. Requiring an expiration date on the label is unnecessary and counter to promoting sunscreen use, as well as counter to preserving our environment.

"FDA has already evaluated the need for expiration date labeling for over-the-counter drugs, including sunscreens, and has stated in national regulation that expiration dates are not required for sunscreens that have been tested and proven to be stable for a minimum of 3 years.

"A modification of this national regulation, which took years for FDA to develop, can cause public confusion. Different labels on an identical product raise unnecessary concerns and lead to avoidance or misuse of the product.

"In addition, a uniform national product label – harmonized across all States – allows manufacturers to freely move products between States – adjusting for supply and demand. NY requiring a different label could lead to a disruption in commerce and potentially result in a waste of perfectly viable product which unnecessarily negatively impacts the environment.

"The issue that the bill is attempting to solve is, in fact, not related to sunscreen labeling. The fundamental problem is that some individuals do not take adequate precautions, including the use of sunscreens, to protect themselves from the sun."

A spokeswoman for New York-based Estee Lauder Companies told CBS 2, "Safety is a top priority. Research conducted on active ingredients in sunscreens demonstrates that they remain stable and effective for many years. "

While the experts battle it out, one skin cancer specialist suggested consumers look for an expiration date when shopping.

"If I looked at a sunscreen in the store and I didn't see an expiration date, I wouldn't buy it," said Dr. Carl Leichter, a dermatologist. "And if you're using less than one ounce to cover your whole body, you're not using enough."

"You should never get to the point where your sunscreen expires," Leichter added. "You should be using it."

Weisenberg's bill just passed in the Assembly again but, law or not, he urges folks to adopt his philosophy when it comes to sunscreen: When in doubt, throw it out.

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