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Sunscreen safety changes on hold amid COVID-19 pandemic -- here’s why

Just as the pandemic was starting six months ago, the FDA was in the process of gathering public comment and further scrutinizing many of the current ingredients in sunscreens that chemically block harmful ultraviolet rays.

However, a provision in the coronavirus-related CARES Act halted that evaluation process.

Here’s the concern:

Last year, the FDA called for additional testing of a dozen commonly used sunscreen ingredients after studies found significant levels of six of them can enter a person’s blood stream after just one day of use, and then last in the blood stream for seven to 21 days.

It isn’t clear how harmful some of these chemicals are if absorbed, but studies have found both oxybenzone and octinoxate in breast milk. Other studies suggest a link between oxybenzone, which is absorbed into the blood, and some endocrine abnormalities such as lower testosterone levels in teen boys, hormone changes in men and shorter pregnancies.

Meanwhile, there also are environmental concerns. Both Florida and Hawaii have placed restrictions on the use of the chemicals as both appear to damage coral reefs.

It’s still important to wear sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer, but it may be worth doing some extra research to make sure you’re using the safest available products while any improvements to the sunscreen are on hold.

The Environmental Working Group release an annual guide to sunscreens with safety ratings -- view it here.

The CARES Act does require the FDA to provide new sunscreen regulations within 18 months. The FDA is expected to reintroduce the changes that we expected to see this year.


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