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FDA Criticized for Sunscreen Regulation

Posted: August 19, 2008
The Cancer Prevention Coalition has criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) for failing to properly regulate sunscreens that it believes contain toxic ingredients. The Chicago-based group claims that organic and/or chemical sunscreens pose ‘scientifically well-documented risks’ that are being ignored by the industry and the FDA.

“Sunscreens are based on six ingredients, a number of which are penetration enhancers, actively forcing their way through the skin,” chairman of the group, Samuel Epstein, said. Some of the ingredients, including oxybenzone, are thought to be endocrine disruptors, interfering with the hormonal system, he argues.

In addition, according to Epstein chemical sunscreens provide no protection for the consumer against the longer wavelength UVA rays. Indeed, he argues they increase the risk of skin cancer as they encourage consumers, especially young people, to remain in the sun for longer periods. Although they may not be burning, they are not protected against the damage caused by UVA rays, he said.

For Epstein, in order to be protected against UVA rays consumers must turn to inorganic or mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) or zinc oxide (ZnO).

However, these inorganic ingredients remain controversial for Epstein and the Coalition as an increasing number of manufacturers are turning to TiO2 and ZnO particles in the nano range in order to improve product performance. Epstein calls the unlabelled inclusion of nanoparticles ‘the single most serious potential hazard in the field of personal care.’