The lawmakers also expressed concern that spray sunscreens and other formulas may not provide the same level of sun protection as typical lotion sunscreens. The FDA has requested additional data on spray sunscreens to establish their effectiveness and to determine whether they pose safety concerns from accidental inhalation. The agency also requested more data on sunscreen oils, creams, gels and sticks.
“The FDA has received numerous comments on the labeling proposal, draft guidance and requests for data that were issued in June 2011. The agency is currently evaluating the data and information included in these comments,” agency spokeswoman Andrea Fischer said in an email.
In addition, the lawmakers asked the FDA to look into reviewing and approving new sunscreen ingredients that they say could offer stronger protection.
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, one of the letter’s signatories, said in a statement that eight applications for new sunscreen ingredients have been pending with the agency for years — some for up to a decade — and many of the ingredients are already being used in other countries.
The senators asked what action the agency has taken to review those ingredients and whether the FDA plans to develop a process to approve them. Along with Reed, the signers are independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Dianne Feinstein of California, Al Franken of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
The Environmental Working Group is also pushing the agency to do more when it comes to sunscreen labeling and testing. In reviewing the sunscreen market in May, the environmental health research and advocacy organization found that the FDA’s regulations had resulted in only “minimal improvements” in the products being sold.
Nearly all sunscreens on the market met the FDA’s standards for providing broad spectrum coverage, the group said, but added that the agency’s standards are “the weakest in the modern world.”
The FDA says products passing the broad spectrum test will provide protection against both ultraviolet B radiation and ultraviolet A radiation, both of which can cause sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging. Sunburn is caused primarily by UVB radiation.
Farah Ahmed, the chair of the Personal Care Products Council’s Sunscreen Committee, protested the EWG’s findings. She said the group was promoting “false and misleading assertions” about sunscreen, which may prompt consumers not to use the products at all.
Congress recently tried to combat skin cancer caused by sun exposure by including a 10 percent tax on indoor UV tanning services beginning in July 2010. The tax also served as a revenue raiser for the health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).