It took just one day of use for several common sunscreen ingredients to enter the bloodstream at levels high enough to trigger a government safety investigation, according to a pilot study conducted by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, an arm of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The study, published May 6, 2019 in the medical journal JAMA, also found that the blood concentration of three of the ingredients continued to rise as daily use continued, and then remained in the body for at least 24 hours after sunscreen use ended.
Senator Chuck Schumer on Sunday sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration calling for officials to heavily scrutinize a variety of potentially dangerous chemicals found in commercial sunscreen products.
The FDA is in the middle of rewriting its rules on sunscreen regulations for the first time in decades. The agency recently found two chemicals commonly put in the product, para-aminobenzoic acid and trolamine salicylate, are unsafe and has called for them to be banned.
But another 12 sun-blocking ingredients were put on the agency’s “questionable” list and recent studies have shown they can seep into the bloodstream 24 hours after they’re applied.
The 12 Category III sunscreen ingredients are cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.
Two ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both mineral sunscreens that do not penetrate and are not absorbed through the skin and are generally recognized as safe and effective for use in sunscreens. The FDA has sufficient evidence that they are GRASE Category I. Thus, the safety evaluation does not need to consider more than direct effects on the skin.
“The one thing I am urging them to not get wrong, and to move swiftly to address, relates to the ingredients,” Schumer said of the FDA. "We know very little about some of them and what they might do in our bloodstream, but we have the ability and the technology to find out.”
As EWG has reported in the past, over 60% of the products evaluated do not offer adequate sun protection or contain potentially harmful chemicals. What makes this year's report different, said Director of Healthy Living Science Nneka Leiba, is that the 2019 products were judged using FDA safety guidelines proposed in February, that the standards for the 2019 guide were so much higher. “The fact that 60% of the market seemingly wouldn’t be considered safe and effective by the FDA is a huge deal.”
The FDA’s new rules for sunscreen are to be finalized in November, giving agency officials enough time to thoroughly review the effects of the questionable chemicals, according to Schumer.
The agency is also pushing for more regulations on labeling sunscreen, which would give consumers more clear information on the risks associated with the chemicals and with sunbathing in general.
Schumer said the reports on the chemicals in sunscreen shouldn’t stop people from using the stuff — it’s among the best ways to prevent skin cancer during the summer.
“New Yorkers should not and cannot stop using sunscreen,” said Schumer. "That is exactly why it is so critical that the FDA get this right.”
An FDA spokeswoman said agency officials would review Schumer’s letter and respond directly to the senator.
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