WASHINGTON, D.C. – EWG’s 8th annual guide to sunscreens, released today, gives shoppers an easy-to-use, searchable online database to the safest, most effective sun protection products.
The guide arrives as the rate of newly diagnosed cases of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, continues to surge across the U.S.
“Many sunscreens offer inadequate protection from the sun and can contain toxic ingredients to boot,” said Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst at EWG. “This guide offers users much-needed, well-sourced information so they can make the right choices to protect themselves and their families.”
Two-thirds of the sunscreens analyzed by EWG researchers either don’t work well enough or contain ingredients that may be toxic, including vitamin A and oxybenzone. In addition, only one in four daily moisturizers containing SPF offer strong and lasting protection from the sun.
The federal Food and Drug Administration’s regulations on sunscreen are weak, allowing manufacturers to use confusing and inaccurate marketing claims. Some 15 percent of beach and sport sunscreens on the market this summer are labeled SPF 50+ or higher. The FDA has called any product with SPF above 50+ “inherently misleading.” High-SPF products offer slightly more UVB protection than those with lower numbers, but studies show that people misuse them and end up with more UV exposure and more sunburn.
Another product EWG recommends avoiding is spray sunscreen. Sprays account for one in three of the products in this year’s database, but the FDA has said that the sunscreen industry has not produced data to confirm that spray sunscreen products are safe or effective.
Some manufacturers have asked for FDA approval to add chemicals now used as UVA filters in European sunscreens active ingredients. These chemicals appear to offer better UVA protection than the chemicals approved for use in the U.S. The applications have been bogged down for so long that a number of lawmakers are supporting legislation called the “Sunscreen Innovation Act” to expedite the FDA process.
“Clearly, the FDA’s regulations on sunscreens are doing little to stem the tide of poorly-made products, and that could have serious effects on Americans’ health,” Lunder said. “Since we started this project eight years ago, we’ve seen few improvements in the safety or efficacy of sunscreens sold by mass-marketed brands.”
The EWG 2014 sunscreen guide offers consumers some good news: reseachers have found more zinc- and titanium- based mineral sunscreens that offer stable, lasting protecting from UV rays without penetrating the skin.
EWG recommends that instead of relying on sunscreens, people turn first to protective clothing and stay in the shade during hours when the sun is most intense. They should schedule regular skin examinations with their dermatologists
EWG, along with a number of innovative sunscreen companies, has launched the EWG Sun Safety Campaign to educate people on how best to protect themselves from sun’s harmful UV rays.
“Americans love to worship the sun,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG. “The campaign urges reverence instead. Skin cancer has become a public health crisis that we have ignored far too long, and we’re paying the price: millions of new skin cancer cases are diagnosed every year, and someone dies of melanoma in this country every hour.”
“This year, and in the years to come, our campaign aims for nothing less than a fundamental change in Americans’ attitudes and habits, so that the practice of ‘smart sun’ becomes as commonplace as buckling a seatbelt,” Cook said.
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