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House approves sunscreen safety bill

Just how effective is that sunscreen you slather on your skin when outside enjoying the summer weather? Legislation moving through Congress is intended to help you know just that. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Sunscreen Innovation Act (H.R. 4250), which would order the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to create a process for evaluating sunscreen. The bill was received in the Senate on Tuesday, June 29, 2014 after the House passed it the day before.

A companion bill has been pending since March before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. The House approved its version by voice vote.

The bill would create labeling requirements and ask the FDA to determine which ingredients are generally recognized as safe and effective. The FDA would also set up a procedure for testing and approving new ingredients. Applicants for new ingredients would have to provide data on safety and effectiveness and possible adverse consequences. The FDA would also study whether manufacturers should be allowed to list sun protection factors above 50.

The report on the bill from the House Committee on Energy & Commerce noted that the FDA currently is backlogged with applications for sunscreen products. The bill would set deadlines for approval. The FDA would get two months to decide if the applicant provide enough information for a review. It could also allow a 45-day public comment period to be advertised in the Federal Register.

The bill would allow the FDA to require manufacturers to provide data in their applications in a standardized format, which should speed approval. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill, if fully implemented starting next year, would cost the government about $28 million over five years. The act would sunset, if not renewed, after five years.

The bill calls for the Government Accountability Office to report in a year on the FDA's progress in implementing the bill. Every other year, the FDA would have to report to Congress on how it's doing.