The “CBS Evening News” has found another corporate villain it says needs more FDA regulation: sunscreen manufacturers.
But it was reporter Trish Regan who burned her audience by leaving out pertinent information and stacking the deck with two critics of sunscreen makers. In her critique, she neglected to include sunscreen company representatives or dermatologists.
Regan warned viewers of her August 17 story that “your lotion may be promising more than it can deliver, especially when it comes to protecting you from all the sun’s harmful rays.”
“Most of the sunscreen formulations you find out on the market really [only] protect for UVB radiation,” Consumer Union scientist Urvashi Rangan complained to Regan.
The CBS correspondent went on to explain that the SPF factor listed on sunscreen “refers only to UVB protection” but that “UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, lowering our resistance to skin cancer and causing skin to age.”
Regan then complained that the FDA has “no standards for measuring” a sunscreen’s effectiveness at blocking UVA rays, but in doing so left out the reason why: SPF is simply a measure of the time it takes to develop sunburn, and even that varies widely depending on the individual.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “SPF rating is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce a sunburn on sunscreen protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin.”
What’s more, not only are UVA radiation’s effects less noticeable and harder to quantify, according to the AAD, “Even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.”
Simply put, one’s exposure to the long-term damage from UVA radiation can come from the vast majority of our time outdoors when we’re not wearing sunscreen.
But just how misleading are sunscreen claims of UVA protection? Sunscreen that contains certain such ingredients as “benzophenones, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone,” says the AAD, extends “the coverage beyond the UVB range and into the UVA range, helping to make sunscreens broad-spectrum.”
In fact, one of the lotions Regan held up as misleading, Coppertone Sport, is one of 14 brands of lotion that Coppertone manufactures “that contain photostabilized avobenzone or zinc oxide [to] provide broad-spectrum protection,” according to the company Web site.
After airing Democratic Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s call for more FDA regulation, Regan closed her story by urged sun worshipers to remember that “doctors say for the best protection, seek the shade.”
Yet even sunscreen companies remind their customers of that fact. On its Web site, Coppertone urges customers to “stay in the shade whenever possible” and to wear “dark-colored, tightly woven clothing, along with a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.” Banana Boat’s Web site also urges users to “Wear sun-protective clothing. If you hold fabric up to a light and the light doesn’t shine through, you know you’re safe.”