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Use effective sunscreens so that sunbathing doesn't end up as sunburn

17/2001, 25.05.2001

Products with UV-A protection are particularly good for children

As soon as the weather report announces rising temperatures, sun-starved central Europeans rush out to sunbathe. Whether on public squares or meadows, in the swimming pool, on the beach - everywhere they are "soaking up" the sun. Too many short-wave UV-B rays can turn this pleasurable pastime into blistering sunburn, a very painful end. However, the long-wave portions in sunlight (the UV-A rays) are more dangerous because their effect is not noticed until it is too late and, therefore, it cannot be avoided in time. UV-A rays penetrate deeper into the skin. They suppress the immune system, lead to the premature formation of lines and may trigger cancer. Children are particularly at risk because they often underestimate the intensity of the sun's rays whilst playing. BgVV, therefore, urgently recommends that sun protection be taken seriously.

Children do not instinctively avoid the sun. Data from the American Academy of Dermatology proved that 80% of sun damage is caused before the age of 18. UV-A rays penetrate into the shade of trees and even light summer clothing does not offer sufficient protection. For that very reason sunscreen products should be used in addition to suitable clothing for children.

Details of sun protection factors (SPFs) on cosmetic products may be one criterion which influence a purchase decision. However they only refer to protection against sunburn, against UV-B rays. Generally recognised methods to determine the protection factor for UV-A rays are not yet available. Therefore, consumers should give preference to products which also offer UV-A protection. Only recently the media have issued warnings about the possible oestrogen effects of UV filters in sun protection products. The Cosmetics Committee in BgVV addressed this subject at its last meeting and reviewed the relevant literature and study findings in conjunction with its health assessment. In the opinion of BgVV the advantages of using sun protection products with UV filters are far greater than any potential risks. Necessary sun protection should not, therefore, be neglected because of fears about a possible oestrogen effect of the products.

UV filters, which should be used in cosmetic products in the European Union, must be examined for potential health-damaging effects before they can be included in the positive list of the Cosmetics Directive. Studies have shown that the first hormonal effects are not to be expected until concentrations are reached which are more than 200 times higher than could be achieved with a normal use of sun protection factors.


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