Getting burned, update: FDA lets another promise to approve sunscreen guidelines slip by

The U.S. FDA has let slip by another self-imposed deadline to approve guidelines that could make sunscreen safer and packaging more understandable. SNEWS follows up on the government deadlines and sunscreen risks and hyperbole it covered in a three-part series in May 2010.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has let slip by another self-imposed deadline to approve guidelines that could make sunscreen safer and packaging more understandable.

SNEWS® learned, as a part of its exclusive, three-part investigative series that ran in late May 2010, that the FDA, which oversees sunscreen, has basically seen 32 years pass without imposing thorough guidelines, leaving users open to misleading claims and at risk. (Click here to find the series.)

The most recent deadline was October 2010, an FDA spokeswoman had told SNEWS when we inquired in the spring about the deadline to pass a final “monograph” in May 2010, which it missed.

“FDA is working on the final rule for the testing and labeling of over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreens to address protection against UVB and UVA radiation,” said Shelly Burgess, FDA spokesman, by email in early November. “We anticipate publishing the rule in the next several months.”

In our article, several long-time cosmetics and sunscreen developers and managers had told SNEWS they were not confident in any deadline the FDA set, since it has let them slip by year-after-year for many years.

The “Getting Burned” series by SNEWS kicked off May 26 with a look at the confusion over labeling and guidelines, misconceptions about UV radiation and the FDA situation. It continued May 28 covering the “ins and outs” of ingredients, label fine print and details of proposed rating systems to help the public understand better what is in packages and what it can do. A third part on May 31 provided insights on marketing claims and manufacturer hyperbole. An extra fourth story provided resources, links and education.

SNEWS followed up with an editorial on June 4 discussing what we learned during our months-long investigation -- and how to take part in the discussion.

--Therese Iknoian

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