A severe, blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life. Yet every year, we see local news channels broadcast stories of kids getting sunburned. And research suggests that kids are spending too much time unprotected in the sun. With our understanding of the dangers of sun exposure, why is sunscreen application at school even an issue?
The Real Issue
In most European countries and many others, sunscreen is considered a cosmetic. But in the U.S., the FDA still labels sunscreen as an Over the Counter Drug. This means a doctor must provide a prescription for sunscreen application at school. By making it a hassle, most parents simply don’t take the time to ensure their kids have access to sunscreen application at school.
In 2014, President Obama signed into law the Sunscreen Innovation Act. The legislation was supposed to help fast track the approval of sunscreen ingredients. Eight newer ingredients had been used without concern for many years in other countries. Some of these compounds had been up for FDA approval since 2002, explains David Steinberg, a cosmetics consultant and chemist. When the law was passed, many thought it would cause the FDA to respond “more quickly” to these applications. But in typical FDA fashion, the invoked response was to respond quicker but still delay approval. Manufacturers were simply asked to provide more studies and proof of safety. “The FDA,” Steinberg contends, “is bogged down in minutiae because they are overly concerned with sunscreens as drugs.”
States are Taking Action
States are now taking up this issue of sunscreens being labeled as drugs. Several states have passed legislation that does not require a doctor’s note or even parental permission for kids to take sunscreen to school. Currently Utah, California, New York, Texas, Oregon, Washington and Louisiana have passed such laws. Several more states are currently looking at similar legislation. For the most part, these bills to make sunscreen application at school easier have sailed through their respective legislative bodies. In Louisiana for example, the House vote was 99 to one. The single dissenting vote came from a representative who had proposed an amendment to the bill. She wanted school nurses to apply sunscreen for kindergartners through fifth graders to avoid the potential of “inappropriate touching” by school staff when applying sunscreen.
Contacting a Legislator
If your state has not yet put into motion such a law to make sunscreen application at school easier, it may not take much to get things going. Contacting the state representative for your area is a great place to start. Furthermore, a coordinated effort by a group of parents or action group could make all the difference in getting a bill written. CLICK HERE for a handy resource to help you contact your local representative.
Where the Buck Stops
Most importantly as parents, we have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for our kids. If it’s too much trouble to bug your local state representative to change the law, go ahead and take that little bit of extra time to get a doctor’s note. This simple act could be a life-saving one four your child.
Skin cancer is progressive and begins when a person is young and at a higher risk of sun exposure. “Children’s skin is much thinner,” notes Dr. Henry Lim, president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “The ability for the sun to penetrate the skin is significantly higher in kids as compared to adults. Having availability for kids to be able to use sunscreen saves them from a lot of sun damage and saves them from the development of skin cancer.” Dr. Lim also says that he has never had a parent ask him to write a prescription so their child could use sunscreen at school.