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Health News

EU bans misleading "sunblock" labels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - There is no such thing as 100 percent protection from the sun, the European Union’s consumer chief warned holidaymakers on Monday and she banned the words “sunblock” and “100 percent sun protection” on sun cream.

People sunbathe on Nobbys Beach on a hot autumn day in the city of Newcastle, located 120 km (75 miles) north of Sydney, March 11, 2007. There is no such thing as 100 percent protection from the sun, the European Union's consumer chief warned holidaymakers on Monday and she banned the words "sunblock" and "100 percent sun protection" on sun cream. REUTERS/David Gray

Such labeling is misleading and contributes to thousands of deaths each year, Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said.

“Consumers need clear, accurate information on sunscreen products so they can make informed choices,” she said in a statement.

“There is no such thing as 100 percent protection and we need to reinforce that essential message. This is just one of a number of measures that are necessary for effective protection against the sun.”

According to Cancer Research UK, the number of skin cancer cases in that country has more than doubled since the early 1980s with over 2,000 deaths from skin cancer each year.

NEW LABELS

Under the new rules, which came into force on Monday and will be phased in before the end of the year, the new labels will also include a new UVA logo and standardized terms such as “low,” “medium,” “high” and “very high” protection.

UVA is the term used for ultraviolet light that can cause chronic conditions such as the appearance of aging and interferes with the human immune system.

UVB radiation is the cause of sunburn, but damages only the skin’s outer layer or epidermis. Although both types of radiation are important contributors to the risk of skin cancer, experts believe UVA plays a bigger role.

The Commission said sunscreen products with only UVB protection may provide a false sense of safety because they do not protect against UVA radiation.

As labels for 2007 have already been printed, around 20 percent of sunscreen products on the shelves will feature the new labels.

“So for the moment consumers are advised to read labels very carefully during this summer,” Kuneva said.

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