2002-05-18 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

May is upon us and Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner.  Whether you happen to be marching in a parade, sunbathing at Rockaway Beach, or enjoying a trip to the ballpark, it is important to protect yourself from the elements of the sun.

According to the American Cancer Society, over 800,000 new skin cancer cases of highly curable basal cell cancers are diagnosed every year.  Furthermore, because of the link between severe sunburn in childhood and a greater risk of melanoma in later life, children should be protected from the sun.  The best ways to protect yourself and prevent skin cancer, while still enjoying outdoor activity, include avoiding sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen.

Sunscreen is very important in protecting you and your family from damage caused by sun exposure.

Many people, however, are unaware that sunscreens can lose their effectiveness over time.  Most sunscreens have a lifespan of one to three years and after three years the active ingredients can deteriorate thereby decreasing protection.

There is a good chance that an old bottle of sunscreen from last summer will not be very effective this year.

Unfortunately, because sunscreen products are not required to have an expiration date, many companies and brands do not date their products.

This prohibits consumers from knowing when to replace undated sunscreens.  As a precaution and a rule of thumb, throw out your old sunscreen and replace it every one or two years.

To help prevent consumers from using expired and ineffective sunscreens, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg of Long Beach introduced Assembly bill 1988, which would require all sunscreen products to be labeled with expiration dates.  Harvey is a part time lifeguard and realized that many of the products that he relied on for protection failed to inform him of the duration of its effectiveness.

It is only appropriate that we are informed when a product is no longer
effective.  In addition to passing this state legislation, the Assembly passed a resolution, calling on Congress to enact federal legislation to require all sunscreen products to be labeled with expiration dates and storage requirements.

Being safe while enjoying the outdoors can be achieved by following a few simple guidelines supplied by the American Cancer Society; 1. Choose a sunscreen product with SPF 15 or greater. 2. Look for sunscreen products that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Avobenzone, Zinc Oxide and Titanium provide protection against UVA rays. 3. Replace your sunscreen supply regularly to ensure active ingredients are effective.  When in doubt, throw it out. 4. Apply and reapply.

These tips are useful in protecting against the harmful effects of the sun.

Alternatives include wearing protective clothing or taking a break from the sun by going inside or in the shade.  Be safe, use your sunscreen, and enjoy the beautiful weather.

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