Why were rules on sunscreens put in the CARES Act? – Houston Chronicle

When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March, there was a provision on sunscreens tucked away inside a section on over-the-counter drugs review. Specifically, provisions were made regarding competition between sunscreen manufacturers, consumer access, price and the development and innovation of sunscreen ingredients.

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According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, the provision may have been included to keep sunscreen regulations status quo.

Why sunscreens were put into the CARES Act, that we do not know, said Nneka Leiba, vice president of EWGs healthy living science department. Its very odd that it would have happened, a few months after the monograph was supposed to be finalized last year.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration worked to pass an updated sunscreen monograph, a kind of recipe book that covers acceptable ingredients, doses, formulations and labeling on OTC products sold in the U.S. Monographs define the safety, effectiveness and labeling of all marketing OTC active ingredients, according to the FDA.

The FDA published proposed sunscreen rules that indicated that most ingredients were inadequately tested for safety and implied that these ingredients would be removed from the market unless appropriate safety testing was conducted, according to the EWG.

Its possible that Houston has seen the last of the cooler spring weather as the area transitions into another hot, humid summer.

Matt Lanza, managing editor and meteorologist for Space City Weather, said people should be wearing sunscreen if theyre outside at any point when the sun is up.

Never assume that youre invincible, Lanza said. While we can adapt and adjust to the hot climate during Houston summers, its important to realize that its still really hot which can have negative consequences on the human body.

But the year ended and the monograph never passed, Leiba said.

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The FDA had a draft (monograph) published, and one of the things they wanted to do was strengthen UVA standards because there is an increase in knowledge about UVA harm, Leiba said. The first CARES Act mandated that sunscreen relations remain status quo, which is them saying that those chemical ingredients are safe and protective.

Last year, the agency said it did not have enough information about the chemical makeup of the majority of sunscreens to declare they are safe and effective, Leiba said.

The only two ingredients to be found safe for human use are zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which are typically found in mineral-based sunscreens. These are recommended for use by the EWG.

Two scientific studies published last year showed that after a single application, all non-mineral sunscreen ingredients are absorbed through the skin and could be detected in our bodies at levels that could cause harm, the EWG found.

The FDA looked like it was doing a lot of research into it and was going to ask companies to submit as much research as possible, Leiba said. We dont know what the ultimate decision was. Theres no clear direction about what would have happened (if the monograph had passed), but we know there was a lot of lobbying from the industry to not move forward with that.

Each year, the EWG releases an annual guide on the best beach and sport sunscreens, as well as the best lip balms and moisturizers with SPF. More than 1,300 SPF-products, including 700 sunsreens are reviewed by the group.

Only a quarter of products offer adequate protection and do not contain concerning ingredients, such as oxybenzone, a potentially hormone-disrupting chemical that is readily absorbed by the body.

Sixty percent of the sunscreens sold in the U.S. contain active ingredients that are banned in the European Union, said Carla Burns, research and database analyst at EWG and manager of the 2020 EWG Sunscreen Guide.

The group found that 40 percent of the products in the U.S. contain oxybenzone, which has been found to disrupt hormonal processes.

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This years findings were similar to previous guides in that companies are still not providing products with adequate UVA protection, Burns said. Only products labeled broad spectrum have been tested and are shown to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

The term SPF typically only applies to UVB protection, Leiba said. In the EU, theres a requirement for companies to increase their UVA protection in correlation with its UVB standards.

In the U.S., no such requirement exists.

You can have a product that says SPF 100 that offers the same amount of UVA protection as a product with low SPF, Leiba said. We know SPF-high products are misleading and make consumers feel its more protective because the number is so high.

More recent research has found that UVA rays are linked to skin damage and skin cancer, but do not cause the tanning effect to the dermis of the skin - thats caused by UVB rays.

Last year, a rule was proposed that would limit labeling to SPF 60 or below, Leiba said. But since the monograph wasnt passed, companies are still able to label products as high-SPF.

New findings indicate that more personal care products, like moisturizers, makeup foundation and lip balms, include built-in SPF.

More than 500 moisturizers with SPF were assessed in the 2020 guide, Burns said, and that number continues to increase every year.

It could indicate that people are using daily-use sunscreen or are buying products that incorporate SPF into their makeup routine, Leiba said. It could be a great trend, but it has to meet safety and efficacy standards and must be reapplied every two hours.

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Since there are no federal standards on the use of labels like nontoxic or safe for personal care products, consumers have to be vigilant in reading the active ingredients list, Burns said.

The EWG does not claim that products are safe, she added, only that they have been researched and the findings indicate that some are safer than others.

Reef safe is another label that has increased in use in recent years, especially with laws passed in Hawaii and Florida to protect its coral reefs.

Sunscreens and products with SPF are only tools in a persons overall sun safety toolbox, which also includes sun hats, adequate clothing coverage and sunglasses.

julie.garcia@chron.com

Twitter.com/reporterjulie

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Why were rules on sunscreens put in the CARES Act? - Houston Chronicle

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