After such a long winter, Ohioans are ready to spend more time outside, enjoying the warmer weather. While doctors recommend that we wear sunscreen, Americans may be surprised to learn that our sunscreen is not as effective as the sunscreen sold in Canada and Europe. The reason? Regulatory gridlock. Regulatory delays have prevented American sunscreen makers from utilizing many of the ingredients – particularly those that block harmful UVA rays – that are in Canadian and European sunscreens.
With more than two million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, we need access to the most protective sunscreens. Melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, kills nearly 10,000 Americans annually.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is tasked with reviewing sunscreen and other drugs for safety and effectiveness, has not approved any new sunscreen ingredients in more than 10 years. In fact, there are at least eight applications for sunscreen ingredients pending review at the FDA right now. Some of these applications have been awaiting FDA approval since 2002. Because of this backlog, companies producing these newer, more effective sunscreens are unable to sell their products in America.
Ashland Inc., which manufactures sunscreen ingredients at its Columbus plant, is one of these companies. The products Ashland makes in Ohio cannot be sold in Ohio – instead, it is for export only. Ashland submitted an application to the FDA for approval over four years ago. Because the FDA has not approved Ashland’s ingredients, the company is forced to export its product overseas, where it’s been deemed both safe and effective for more than 10 years.
While sunscreens sold in the U.S. protect well against UVB rays, there are only three FDA-approved sunscreen ingredients available in the U.S that effectively guard against the sun’s UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin. Europe, on the other hand, has approved seven sunscreen ingredients that help protect against UVA rays.
I cosponsored the Sunscreen Innovation Act because Americans’ health depends on access to safe, effective sun protection. This legislation would require the FDA to completely review its backlog of pending sunscreen ingredient applications within eight months and review all new applications within a year of their submission.
American consumers should have access to the best sunscreen products available. The FDA must prioritize its review of sunscreen ingredient applications so that we can better protect our children and families against skin cancer.
Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, is a US Senator serving Ohio.