This could be the final summer Americans have to endure inferior and outdated sunscreen.
In the final week of session before Congress takes its summer vacation, lawmakers have come one step closer to protecting American consumers from the sun's harmful rays.
For years, the United States has lagged behind other countries in sunscreen technology because of backlogs in approval of new ingredients by the Food and Drug Administration. While new sunscreen technologies have been available in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America for up to 15 years, they remain stalled awaiting any kind of decision in the U.S. The last time an over-the-counter sunscreen ingredient was approved by the FDA was in the 1990s; there are eight ingredients currently stuck in the system.
But lawmakers have finally had enough. The House passed a bill by voice vote Monday evening that would expedite FDA review of new sunscreen ingredients by implementing a timeline for review, and no longer requiring the agency to issue a regulation every time it wants to approve an ingredient.
The Sunscreen Innovation Act would require final decisions on pending ingredient applications within one year, and decisions on new applications within one and a half.
The House vote came too late to help fair-skinner beachgoers this year, but supporters are cautiously optimistic it will be passed through both chambers by the end of the summer.
The Senate plans to take up the bill in September.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with nearly 5 million people treated each year, at an annual cost of $8.1 billion, according to the Health and Human Services Department. Most of these cases could be prevented with better skin protection.
The House vote coincides with the release of the surgeon general's "Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer" on Tuesday, the first report of its kind, which will recommend ways for individuals, government officials, and others to reduce skin-cancer cases and related costs.
An FDA spokesman has said the agency has "prioritized reviewing the safety and effectiveness of additional sunscreen ingredients as quickly as possible given the agency's resources."
The legislation was introduced by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and John Dingell, D-Mich., in the House and Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., in the Senate.
If the bill becomes law, most of the pending ingredient applications could be reviewed within the next year.
This article appears in the July 29, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.
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