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Public Statements

Sunscreen Innovation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. President, I am pleased to be joined by Senator Isakson and Representatives DINGELL and WHITFIELD in the introduction of the Sunscreen Innovation Act.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In 2014, over 2 million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer, and 20 percent of Americans will get skin cancer at some point during their lifetime. Melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer that often spreads throughout the body if not treated, will be diagnosed in an estimated 76,000 individuals this year, and will take the lives of almost 10,000 Americans. Many skin cancers are preventable with the use of effective sunscreen and by avoiding certain activities, like the excessive use of tanning beds.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been working to ensure consumers have adequate information to prevent skin cancer. For example, I authored the 2007 Tanning Accountability and Notification Act, which has helped spur the Food and Drug Administration's, FDA review of indoor tanning bed labels. Through letters to the FDA and report language in the annual appropriations bill, I continue to press the FDA to implement new tanning bed labeling standards found to be most effective in warning consumers about the harm caused by indoor tanning.

In addition, after working with my former colleague, Senator Chris Dodd, since 1997 to compel the FDA to strengthen sunscreen labeling standards, in 2011 the FDA finally began to take action to finalize parts of the sunscreen monograph relating to the testing and labeling of sunscreen lotions. These regulations were over 30 years in the making. Last year, I urged the FDA to complete its review of sunscreen sprays and the use of sun protection factor, SPF, numbers higher than 50 on product labels.

One barrier to improved sunscreens has been the rate at which new over-the-counter, OTC sunscreen ingredients have been approved by the FDA. Indeed, the last such ingredient approved by the FDA was in the 1990s, with the eight new ingredients submitted since 2002 still awaiting review. It is critical that the FDA perform its due diligence to guarantee that the sunscreen products are safe and effective, but this review process also needs to occur in a timeline that allows these necessary products to get into the hands of consumers.

Many of these ingredients have been used in sunscreen products in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America, in some cases for many years. Unfortunately, delays in the FDA review process have kept these products off of the shelves in the United States for years while awaiting approval.

Our bipartisan, bicameral Sunscreen Innovation Act aims to improve the application process for these new OTC ingredients and ensure consumers have access to new and potentially more effective sunscreen products in a timely manner. Americans have waited far too long for the most advanced, effective ways to protect themselves from the sun.

I am pleased that this legislation has the support of the PASS Coalition, which is made up of such organizations as the Melanoma Research Alliance, the Prevent Cancer Foundation, the Skin Cancer Foundation, and many others.

I look forward to working with these and other stakeholders, as well as Senator Isakson, Representatives DINGELL and WHITFIELD, and the rest of our colleagues to pass the Sunscreen Innovation Act in order to improve access to new and more effective sunscreen products. Indeed, as we look to the coming warmer months, it is important that we undertake serious efforts that will give consumers greater peace of mind that the sunscreen products they purchase offer the strongest possible protection against the sun's harmful rays.

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