Bill Prohibits Further Sunscreen Labeling Delays

Measure Is Response To Last Month's Unexpected Postponement

Suncreen LabelingThe U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would prevent federal regulators from further delaying enforcement of tough new labeling requirements for sunscreen – a measure that comes in response to last month's unexpected postponement. Originally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) planned on implementing the updated regulations – meant to eliminate misleading terminology like "waterproof" and "sweatproof" – this month, but large manufacturers sought and won a delay until December 17. Smaller companies have until December of next year to comply with the new labeling standards.

"This must be the last summer that American families endure inadequate labeling of sunscreen," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). "Every year, I and millions of Americans find the labels more and more confusing."

In June of 2011, after more than 30 years of on-and-off discussions, the FDA finally released a list of labeling rules intended to specify what sunscreen manufacturers could and could not claim about their products. Under the guidelines, sunscreens can only be labeled "broad spectrum" if they block UVB radiation and as well as a percentage of UVA radiation. Additionally, sunscreens that have a SPF (sun protection factor) lower than 15 must carry a label that warns consumers that the product will not reduce the risk of skin cancer. Sunscreens will also no longer be able to claim an SPF above 50 and the highest category now will be 50+. Finally, sunscreens can only be called "water resistant" (rather than waterproof) and labels must state how long the protection will last.

The recent legislation passed by the U.S. House is part of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act and is expected to be approved by the Senate this week.