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For FDA Commissioner Hamburg

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC -- Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook today sent a UV-protective umbrella and letter to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling on the agency to issue safety standards for sunscreens. A PDF of the letter is here.

“FDA started working on those standards back in 1978, the year before President Obama received his high school diploma from Punahou School in Honolulu,” Cook wrote. “Thirty-one years later, the American public is still waiting for FDA to finish the job…. Skin cancer has long since been recognized as a major public health problem. Yet, in the absence of formal guidance from FDA, companies continue to make billions of dollars annually misleading consumers about the protection from the sun their products offer.”

On July 2, as part of its three-year campaign for strict sunscreen safety rules, EWG updated its online guide to help consumers identify the safest most effective sunscreens for themselves and their families. EWG scientists have also rated lip balms and moisturizers that claim to provide UV protection.

The bottom line: responding to pressure from EWG, 70 percent of sunscreens now contain strong UVA filters, compared to 29 percent last year.

EWG encourages consumers to check out brands before they buy. Just 91 of 1619 products on the shelves in 2009 earned the coveted ”recommended” rating for products ranked as safer and more effective. Another 320 products scored red “avoid” ratings because of hazardous ingredients or ineffective sun filtering. The vast majority of sunscreens earned a yellow “caution” rating because of mediocre effectiveness or hazardous ingredients.

EWG’s website features an interactive database that can be searched by brand name or type or product. EWG has also posted a downloadable list of easy-to-find-brands that offer good sun protection.

The UV umbrella that Cook sent Hamburg was developed by Soleil Chic http://www.soleilchic.com/: a company founded by Lynn Rose after losing her husband to malignant melanoma.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org

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