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What others are saying

FDA needs to enforce sunscreen label truth

St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:

For seven years, the Food and Drug Administration has known that many sunscreen labels mislead consumers into thinking they are being fully protected against cancer-causing sun rays. And while skin cancer cases continue to increase, the FDA's lack of urgency about forcing some truth-in-labeling changes has to end.

A lawsuit against five sunscreen manufacturers argues that the product labels are misleading. The sun protection factor, or SPF, is only a measure of the sunburn-inducing and less harmful UVB rays and not those that cause skin cancer, for example. Some products even claim they provide ''broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection,'' for all types of invisible ultraviolet rays, but that's not usually the case, health organizations say.

That's not good news for beachgoers and anyone working out in the sun.

The FDA ordered sunscreen companies to remove absolute words like ''waterproof,'' ''all-day protection'' and ''sunblock'' from their labels in 1999. But the agency - clearly losing sight of its priorities - never enforced these revisions because the corporations wanted to run more tests.

There is a need to move more quickly. The American Cancer Society predicts that of the 1 million skin cancer cases each year, about 62,000 of them will be melanoma and that the disease will claim about 10,700 lives. Misled by the labels, sunscreen users may be assuming they are more well-protected from the sun's harmful rays than they are. And skin cancer cases will continue to rise until the truth is spelled out on the labels.

U.S. needs to overhaul day-to-day emergency response systems

The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier:

If the attacks of Sept. 11 exposed the nation's overall lack of preparedness for catastrophic events, Katrina drove the lesson home. In the aftermath of Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security recently found only 11 states have adequate disaster plans. Not surprisingly, most of the well-prepared states lie in the hurricane zone.

But a new report by the Institute of Medicine shows there is one area of the emergency response system that falls short in even the best-prepared states and cities. Indeed, the nation's medical emergency rooms and supporting EMS systems often fail to meet day-to-day demands, much less the extra burdens that would be imposed by a natural or man-made disaster.

In effect, the nation has allowed EMS to deteriorate because it has avoided coming to grips with providing adequate access to medical service for the poor and with the question of who pays for free medical

services.

How much sense does it make for the federal government to continue pouring billions into other dimensions of emergency response if it neglects to rescue the emergency medical system from its current condition? It is the Achilles' heel of disaster preparedness.