The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Few Sunscreens Shield From UVA Rays

Fall Fun Risks Subtle UVA Damage


fall here, millions of Americans are outside at football and soccer
games, cross-country meets, school fairs, picking apples and raking

As temperatures lower and bathing suits go into the bottom drawer, thoughts of sun protection fade with summer's tans.

That's a mistake.

Sunburn-causing ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation strikes the ground with
less intensity when the sun rides lower in the sky, but the bombardment
of ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation continues. By mid-October, studies
show, a person's chances of getting sunburned by UVB rays decline by
about two-thirds, but he is still exposed to half the UVA radiation of a
mid-summer day. UVA rays are far more prevalent than UVB rays and
penetrate deeper into uncovered skin, posing a serious and insidious
threat to human health. Yet most of the sunscreens on the U.S. market
today offer woefully weak protection against relentless UVA rays.

A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis <>
of 446 beach and sport sunscreens with SPF ratings of 30+ found that
nearly two-thirds of them provide inadequate UVA protection. Those 284
products are too weak for the European market, where manufacturers
voluntarily comply with a European Union recommendation that all
sunscreens provide meaningful UVA protection in relation to the sunburn
protection factor (SPF), a measure of the product's ability to shield
against UBV rays.

"UVA radiation is
associated with a number of serious health problems, including an
increased risk of skin cancer," said Jane Houlihan, EWG's senior vice
president for research. "While sunburns become rare in the fall and
winter months as UVB radiation drops off, UVA rays continue to assault
our skin with a higher intensity relative to UVB rays than during the

EWG has determined that only one-third of high SPF products offer strong
protection against both UVA and UVB rays, making American sunscreens
worse overall than those sold abroad. Despite the claims on sunscreen
labels claim, there's no such thing as an all-day, sweat-proof,
waterproof sun block. Many products advertise but do not actually
provide "broad spectrum" sun protection.

"Some U.S. sunscreen-makers are marketing inferior products with
overstated claims," Houlihan said. "As long as this is the status quo,
millions of Americans are at risk for sun damage and skin cancer."

A major obstacle to progress is the federal Food and Drug
Administration, which has never managed to sign, seal and deliver the
sunscreen regulations it began developing in 1978. The latest draft of
those rules was issued in 2007 but ended up in regulatory limbo, where
it remains.

The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.

(202) 667-6982