The FDA is intent on informing consumers about how dangerous both UVA and UVB rays are, and clarifying the respective ways they cause skin damage. In late August, they proposed a revised system of testing and rating over-the-counter sunscreens.
A sunscreen’s SPF number indicates only how much protection is provided against UVB rays, which cause burning. However, a specific indication of UVA protection is not currently required. In fact, even if a sunscreen has very minimal UVA protection, it may still claim its existence, and possibly mislead the consumer. With the newly proposed system, UVA protection would be ranked on a scale of one to four stars.
Labels would also include a warning, much like that on cigarette packs, that reminds the consumer that wearing sunscreen is not an excuse for spending more time in the sun and that “UV exposure from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, premature skin aging, and other skin damage.”
A similar proposal in 1999 received major industry opposition-the packaging changes alone would be enormous-and therefore didn’t go into effect. Major manufacturers are currently reviewing the new proposal.
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