EWG pushes for sunscreen ratings reform

WASHINGTON: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has launched the first database that will catalogue the effectiveness of more than 700 types of sunscreen as part of its effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to finalize comprehensive sunscreen standards.

WASHINGTON: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has launched the first database that will catalogue the effectiveness of more than 700 types of sunscreen as part of its effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to finalize comprehensive sunscreen standards.

The launch of the database last Tuesday comes after months of communications planning, all done in-house by the Washington-based nonprofit, according to Richard Wiles, executive director.

"We think about message long before a report like this comes out," Wiles said. "We design the research and the message together. We're trying to drive the debate and move the public's consciousness on this."

The database rates the products based on a combination of safety and effectiveness, taking into account the chemicals used to make the product as well as its ability to help prevent long-term damage caused by the sun. The group's analysis found that 84% of sunscreen products with an SPF rating of 15 or higher are either ineffective at protecting against the sun or contain ingredients with safety concerns.

The FDA has long been working on comprehensive, standardized ratings system for sunscreen, which would prevent misleading and inaccurate labeling. There are already several class-action lawsuits surrounding the FDA's failure to set enforceable standards.

The release of the database garnered EWG nationwide press coverage, but Wiles said the next few weeks serve as a key point for the group, as its communications team hope to keep the issue top of mind with legislators and the public. Wiles said six senators have already expressed interest in the issue and the group will continue to push for action at the FDA.

"We'll probably try to encourage the people on our list to write to the FDA," Wiles said. "We're going to try to bring pressure to bear on the FDA any way we can, through the several hundred thousand people on our list, people that come to the site, members of Congress, [and] the press - a full-court press until they get it done."

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