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Sen. Chuck Schumer says sunscreens are not as strong as they say

Sen. Chuck Schumer says a bottle of sunscreen

Sen. Chuck Schumer says a bottle of sunscreen that says SPF 50 only delivers SPF 8 at a press conference in Bryant Park on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Photo Credit: Wendy Lu

Consumers are getting burned by sunscreens that tout higher Sun Protection Factors (SPFs) than they actually contain, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday.

“When you’re buying your kids sunscreen with SPF 50, it may not mean your kids are being any better protected than if you were to buy them SPF-30, SPF-20 or even SPF-10,” Schumer said.

Speaking from a shady spot in Bryant Park, Schumer called for the Food and Drug Administration to investigate all current SPF claims, to fine companies that aren’t labeling their products honestly and to force manufacturers to deliver on the SPFs promised on their labels.

He also called on the agency to expedite the review and approval of new active ingredients that better protect users from sunburn and skin cancer.

“In 2014 Congress passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act,” to do just this, but the FDA has yet to implement its provisions, Schumer said.

Schumer quoted from a recent Consumer Reports study that determined 43% of 60 sunscreens tested failed to meet the claims on their labels in some cases, an sunscreens labeled “50” conferred SPFs of “8.”

“Mineral” or “natural” products that contained only titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide performed worst of all, Consumer Reports found.

“Each and every day, an estimated 8,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer,” and the American Cancer Society predicts 76,000 new cases of melanoma this year, Schumer noted,

“We cannot speculate on why Consumer Reports found differences between SPF values in its testing and those on product labels,” the FDA said in response, via an emailed statement.

“Manufacturers of sunscreen drug products are responsible for the quality of their products and for determining the SPF reported on the labels for their products, by following specific test methods set forth in FDA regulations. When performed according to current regulatory requirements, the FDA’s established SPF test method demonstrates a sunscreen’s effectiveness in helping prevent sunburn,” said the agency.

Products not in compliance are “subject to regulatory actions” and may also be the target of surveillance programs to evaluate their compliance, the agency said.

Schumer said he had never been diagnosed with melanoma, but his father was. “Thank God a doctor caught it in time,” so he could be treated effectively, Schumer said.

The FDA cautioned consumers to limit their sun exposure and to avoid being outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when possible.

They should also wear brimmed hats and protective clothing, and reapply sunscreen of an SPF with a minimum of 15 “at least ever two hours, more often if you’re sweating or jumping in and out of the water.”

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