Sunscreen manufacturers have historically had free reign to claim they are “waterproof” (when this is impossible) and that they offer “broad-spectrum” protection (without a clear, nationwide definition of what this means). Since the late 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration has been pressured to step up its rulemaking on the subject, and it finally did today, announcing new requirements set to take effect this time next year. Among them are a ban on claims of being waterproof; instead, water resistance can be claimed after a specified number of minutes, if tests validate the claims. Further, broad-spectrum protection is defined as protecting against both UVA and UVB rays, which are dangerous in distinct ways even if they both can cause cancer.
That it took decades for rule-making on the subject suggests either that the sunscreen lobby has had more sway on Capitol Hill than most of us imagined possible, or simply that the F.D.A. dragged its feet on this for a hell of a long time. [NYT]