Sandee LaMotte, CNN
health and fitness
(CNN) – Nearly two-thirds of all sunscreens evaluated by the Environmental Working Group would not pass the safety tests proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration, the consumer advocacy group will announce the week next.
The group will release its analysis as part of its 2019 Sunscreen Guide, an annual report on sunscreen safety launched in 2006 by the non-profit organization.
This year, the group said they analyzed the ingredients and performance of more than 1,300 products with a sun protection factor, or SPF; 750 of them are marketed as sunscreens for beach and sports. The analysis only covers a fraction of sunscreen products sold in the United States today, which the FDA estimates at more than 12,000.
As the group has reported in the past, over 60% of the evaluated products do not provide adequate sunscreen nor contain potentially harmful chemicals. According to director of healthy living science, Nneka Leiba, what sets this year's report apart is that the 2019 products were judged on the basis of the FDA's safety guidelines proposed in February.
"Even though we have already presented similar results in our guide, the comparison with the standards proposed by the FDA is very rigorous," said Leiba. "So, the fact that 60% of the market is apparently not considered safe and effective by the FDA is a huge problem."
The big problem of skin cancer
Skin cancer strikes more Americans each year than all other cancers combined. Melanoma, the most lethal form, accounts for only 1% of all skin cancers, but most deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. His statistics show that melanoma rates have been steadily increasing over the past 30 years; Worldwide, melanoma is the 19th most diagnosed cancer.
While many people today consider sunscreens as their first choice in sunscreen, it is only recently that sunscreen ingredients have been regulated by the FDA, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, Acting Medical Director of the American Cancer Society.
"We could not even be certain of the product's content before the FDA set rules defining how to test sunscreens and how to label them," he said.
The need for additional tests
In February, the FDA called for additional tests on a dozen ingredients commonly used in sunscreens after discovering that four of them – avobenzone, oxybenzone, Ecclesule and Octocrylene – could enter the blood of a person after a day of use. The chemicals remained in the body for at least 24 hours after the last sunscreen application.
Oxybenzone, the most studied chemical in sunscreens, has been associated with damage to coral reefs and marine life, lower testosterone levels in adolescent boys, hormonal changes in men, shorter pregnancies and disruption of birth weight in babies. The researchers, however, warn about the hypothesis of a cause-and-effect relationship without further studies.
The environmental working group found that more than two-thirds of the sunscreens in its 2018 report contained oxybenzone, often with various blends of other common chemicals.
The FDA study did not show that oxybenzone and other components could cause health problems, experts say, only that chemicals can be absorbed. The FDA, the American Cancer Society and the Environmental Working Group, among others, recommend that consumers continue to use sunscreen appropriately.
If they are concerned, experts suggest to consumers to look for products containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which, according to studies, are not absorbed by the skin.
In a statement released in February, the National Council of Commerce sunscreen, cosmetic and personal care products said the findings could confuse consumers and discourage the use of sunscreen. "The presence of sunscreens in the plasma after maximum use does not necessarily lead to safety issues," said Alex Kowcz, Scientific Manager of the Personal Care Products Council.
The problem of 100+ SPF coverage
In the proposed rules, which are in the public comment phase, the FDA also calls for a capping of SPF levels on sunscreen products. The SPF only applies to the UVB rays of the sun, which burn the skin. Sunburn is a leading cause of melanoma.
According to the FDA, there is no evidence that sunscreens can protect more than 60 times the SPF. Therefore, labeling sunscreen at levels greater than 60+ may be misleading in providing a false sense of sunscreen.
The new Environmental Working Group report will examine how many products tested were labeled SPF 50 or higher.
Some sunscreens increase the SPF to 100+ and more, but may not adequately protect against equally dangerous UVA rays, which age and damage the DNA of skin cells, thus contributing to skin cancer.
"Using a low-UV sun screen on vacation is like going to a tanning salon or two," said David Andrews, the group's lead scientist.
Only broad-spectrum labeled sunscreens protect against both types of ultraviolet light. According to the guidelines proposed by the FDA, sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or more must be broad-spectrum and offer protection against UVA rays.
In addition, the FDA wants the additional protection against UVA to increase along with the UVB protection. So, when a product gets closer to the SPF 60+, the level of protection against UVA also increases.
Based on its modeling, the Environmental Working Group estimates that 25% of all sunscreen products on the market today would fail compared to the new FDA standards for protection against UVA.
Concerns about aerosol sunscreens
The potential hazard posed by aerosol and sunblock applications is another area of concern for the FDA. Aerosols are potentially combustible and aerosols and powders can enter the lungs if the particles are small enough.
The Environmental Protection Agency's studies of particle pollution, the thin layer of water, and dust / chemical / soot / acid airborne particles show that any diameter less than 10 micrometers most serious health problems as they can enter the lungs.
"Once inhaled, these particles can affect the lungs and heart and have serious health effects for those most at risk, such as cardiac or pulmonary people, diabetics, the elderly, and children (under the age of 15). 18 years old), "says the EPA.
Based on data from studies and information provided by the Personal Care Products Council and several other manufacturers, the FDA plans to place sprays in the "generally accepted as safe" or GRASE category, provided that they are tested to ensure that the particles are too concentrated. big to be inhaled. The powders, however, require additional testing to be classified in this category, according to the FDA.
The aerosol sunscreens are on the rise, said the working group on the environment. Due to the absence of definitive tests, the group recommends avoiding all sprays.
The standards set out in the guidelines proposed by the FDA could easily be changed through lobbying efforts and additional data, said Leiba. But the group, which has been asking the FDA for several years to do a thorough review, is encouraged by the fact that many of their safety suggestions are being evaluated.
Meanwhile, consumers should continue to protect their skin from the sun and choose sunscreens with the least risk, she said.
"It's been a long time since I've seen the FDA really express its concerns about sunscreen," said Leiba. "If the FDA does, it really means that consumers have to consider it."
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