Life Extension has long warned its members that commercial sunscreens provide only limited protection against potentially lethal ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Now two of the nation’s foremost consumer law firms have filed coordinated, class-action lawsuits in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, charging that sunscreens by leading makers such as Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Hawaiian Tropic do not protect against harmful solar radiation and create a false sense of security that actually endangers sunscreen users.*
The lawsuits allege systematic fraud, false advertising, and persistently misleading claims that exaggerate the ability of sunscreens to protect against the sun and reduce the risk of cancer and other skin ailments.
As Life Extension recently warned (see “The Sunscreen Paradox,” Life Extension, June 2006), the FDA’s flawed sun protection factor (SPF) rating system designates protection against UVB rays but not UVA rays.
According to the complaint, “UVB rays have been shown to cause [sunburn], premature aging of the skin, and the development of skin cancer . . . UVA rays are also harmful and have been shown to damage the DNA in skin cells, contribute to premature aging of the skin, and cause the development of certain forms of skin cancer.” The complaint notes that “existing research indicates that the level of protection provided against UVA rays by Defendants’ sun protection products, particularly those with high SPF designations, is significantly less than the protection provided against the burning effects of UVB rays.”
The complaint goes on to state that consumers have purchased sunscreen products “under the false impression that they are receiving protection from all of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays” and that the “health costs to . . . the general public as a result of this deceptive conduct have been staggering.”
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 1.5 million skin cancer cases are diagnosed annually in the US—more than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. More than 8,000 Americans die each year from skin cancer.
The lawsuits seek an injunction on claims made by sunscreen makers on their product labels, websites, and advertising, as well as compensation for consumers and other remedies, including an industry-financed public education program on sun protection.