A 'Best' and 'Worst' List

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

It has been almost 30 years since the Food and Drug Administration last updated rules regulating the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens.

In the years since, manufacturers have made misleading claims for many products, some of them containing hazardous and ineffective ingredients, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.

EWG compares 783 sunscreens at the Web site http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com, with analysis of what the scientific literature and databases of hazardous chemicals have to say about products' listed ingredients.

Of those 783 sunscreens, it recommends 128, issues a caution on 618 and names 37 it says should be avoided. Eighty-four percent of the products, it concludes, don't offer adequate protection from the sun's harmful rays or have unsafe ingredients.

Products ranked as best have both UVA and UVB protection and stable and long-lasting ingredients. They include Badger SPF 30 and UV Natural Sport SPF 30+. The 37 "worst" don't offer UVA protection, break down rapidly and contain allergens or other problem ingredients.

Banana Boat, the maker of Suntanicals Sunscreen Lotion -- listed on EWG's "worst" list as containing ingredients linked to cancer and developmental or reproductive toxicity -- declined to comment.

Julie Lux, a spokesman for Schering Plough, the maker of Coppertone, said she couldn't imagine why EWG made the same charges about her company's Sport Sunblock Lotion (Ultra Sweatproof). "All our products are rigorously tested both in the lab and in the real world to ensure they provide safe, effective and superior protection," she said.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, the trade group for sunscreen makers, called the EWG Web site "reckless" and defended the safety and efficacy of its members' products.

-- Alicia Ault

© 2007 The Washington Post Company