Lawsuit Puts Pressure on Sunscreen Makers

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Now that it’s spring, things are finally warming up and it seems like it’s time to look again to a major source of health issues — the sun. We all know how important it is to protect our bodies from skin cancer by limiting our exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. However, some people are putting this responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the sunscreen industry.

 A class-action lawsuit was recently filed, alleging that some of the major manufacturers of sunscreen in the U.S. have misled consumers with the way they tout their products. It all comes down to packaging and marketing. The sunscreen makers make two specific claims, which the lawsuit says promote the act of potentially harmful sunbathing.

 First, many popular sunscreens emphasize the point that they can protect against those nasty ultraviolet rays. However, it seems that sunscreen might only be effective against one type of this cancer-risk ray — UVB rays — and not the other. This means that while you’re lying outside in your bathing suit or walking about in the sunshine, UVA rays could be penetrating your skin, upping your risk for cancer.

 In fact, when a product has a “Sun Protection Factor” (SPF) of 35%, it is only referring to its ability to protect against UVB rays. But omission isn’t lying. . . or is it?

 As to this allegation, one of the companies — Schering- Plough — feels that it is without merit and reminds us that its products follow FDA regulations.

 Second, the class-action suit raises the issue of “waterproof” claims by some sunscreen makers. The suit labels this claim as being deceiving, as no sunscreen product remains effective upon saturation with moisture. One product could be more “water-resistant” than another product — meaning that it lasts a bit longer in the water or when a person is sweating — however, no product can truly assert that it is fully waterproof.

 Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that you Shouldn’t use sunscreen products. Whether or not the manufacturers of this popular product are truly being deceptive in their product labeling and advertising, sunscreen is still considered an essential weapon in the fight against sun damage. However, it’s just one part of a larger picture.

 The point here is that you have to gain as much knowledge as you can and take responsibility for your own health. Sunscreen products do not provide 100% protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Just because you’re wearing your “Coppertone” SPF 55%, doesn’t mean you’re safe to sunbathe all day long.

 You need to take as many precautions as you can when you’re dealing with the sun. Avoid going out during peak hours in the summertime (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.); wear protective clothing (including a hat!) and sunglasses; buy sunscreen with the best ingredients (e.g. “parsol”) and apply it liberally; and don’t forget to reapply after you’ve been swimming or engaging in any sweat-producing activity.

 Follow these tips and you can enjoy the upcoming sunny days — without worrying about the negative effects of the sun on your body.