For those who apply sunscreen religiously when outdoors, it may come as a shock that ingredients in the protective lotions and sprays have not really changed in the US for the past 15-years.
One such person is Ecuador native and Jacksonville, Florida, resident Ximena Bailey, who in her 40s was diagnosed with skin cancer for the first time, after years of excessive sun exposure thinking she was protecting herself with sunscreen that promised to have ingredients that would accomplish that goal.
Now, in her 70s, Bailey has undergone several surgeries to remove cancerous and non-cancerous spots on her head, chest, and arms as recently as two-years ago. She has regular check-ups and takes extra precautions when out in the sun.
Bailey is one of millions who did the right thing and are questioning why the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not moved more swiftly to approve new sunscreen ingredients, which are available to consumers in other parts of the world.
“They need to get in touch with reality,” she said. “Things are happening to us. Don’t stay behind.”
In Europe, for instance, beachgoers have access to sunscreen with the latest ingredients that protect users from harmful rays, however, in the US those same ingredients are considered over the counter drugs and require FDA approval before they can go on the market, hence the agency hasn’t authorized new elements since 1999.
The Washington Post reports eight new sunscreen ingredients that are already used in Europe, South America, and Asia are currently pending review by the FDA.
One of the strongest detractors is the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that focuses on public health and environmental issues and argues:
“The FDA’s criteria are the weakest in the modern world. Half of the US sunscreens that meet the FDA rules would not make it to store shelves in Europe.”
FDA officials defend the agency blaming the backlog on bureaucracy and some sunscreen ingredient applications lacking safety data and add that just because an ingredient is approved in another country, doesn’t mean that it will be in the US.
“We have a system here that’s completely broken down, and everybody knows that it has broken down,” Wendy Selig, president of the Melanoma Research Alliance said.
This and other groups, including dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers are pushing for the FDA to move forward in the pending ingredients approval.
The FDA says that US consumers have access to a great number of sunscreen products, but whether they contain the ingredients that will protect them from harmful ultraviolet rays is another question. The agency has make it a priority to review the pending applications.
[Image via Shutterstock]