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EXTRA CRISPY? - NEW FDA REGS FOR SUNSCREEN

International -- A young Marine has a little too much to drink and decides to lay out by the pool. He falls asleep (passes out?) and gets fried by the sun for nearly five hours. When someone finally wakes him, he's burned from head to toe -- even his eyelids! He screams when he tries to stand up. Emergency medics arrive on scene, and they end up loading him into the ambulance ... chair and all! He was unfit for duty for nearly three weeks.

A girl takes her first vacation to Cancun, Mexico, and spends a day in the relentless sun. She suffers second-degree burns to her back and has to be rushed to the emergency room, where doctors perform an agonizing scrub on her wounds to prevent infection.

A young fisherman out on a boat all day forgets to protect the top of his feet. They burn so badly, giant, puss-filled blisters appear like water balloons on the entire surface of each foot. The pain is so intense he can't walk for three days and can't wear shoes for over a week.

Sunburn certainly isn't reserved for the young; however, a day at the beach will reveal more "rookies" glowing than older age groups. There are a couple of good reasons for this: First, more young people hang out at the beach. Second, almost everyone has suffered some form of sunburn; so older people have learned their painful lessons and tend to take more precautions.

Whether young or old, however, the Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to help protect consumers from skin damage caused by excessive sun exposure.

These measures are necessary, says Lydia Velazquez, PharmD, in FDA's Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development, because "our scientific understanding has grown. We want consumers to understand that not all sunscreens are created equal."

"This new information will help consumers know which products offer the best protection from the harmful rays of the sun," Velazquez says. "It is important for consumers to read the entire label, both front and back, to choose the appropriate sunscreen for their needs."

The final regulations, which become effective in one year, establish a standard test for over-the-counter (sold without a prescription) sunscreen products that will determine which products are allowed to be labeled as "Broad Spectrum," FDA officials said.

Products that pass this test will provide protection against both ultraviolet B radiation and ultraviolet A radiation. Sunburn is primarily caused by UVB. Both UVB and UVA can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging.

Under the new regulations, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage will be labeled "Broad Spectrum" and "SPF 15" (or higher) on the front.