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Know the Facts When You're Out in the Sun

Summer is a magical season that brings to mind sandy beaches, poolside parties and daylight hours that seem to last forever. For those who work outdoors, however, the magic gets lost in the reality of protecting yourself from the sun’s unrelenting rays.

“We represent a wide spectrum of workers for whom the great outdoors is their ‘office’ --from public safety officers, parks and recreation employees and beaches and harbors workers to delivery personnel, airline employees and utility workers,” says Richard Felton, a partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). “And though they make their living in very different ways, the one thing they have in common is a greater chance of developing the three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.”

When it comes to cancer there is no silver lining, but there is the fact that in many work-related cases of skin cancer, the current workers’ compensation permanent disability schedule does allow for a permanent impairment and disability rating.

“The 2005 rules also allow for a monetary recovery, even after successful treatment. Most importantly, a finding that the cancer was work-related can result in a lifetime medical award to care for this condition, too. For lifeguards and some public safety officers, there is even a ‘presumption’ for skin cancer in Labor Code Section 3212.”

Long gone are the days when people baked in the sun without any type of skin protection. But, all too often, choosing the most effective sunscreen is a daunting task as labels tout a wide variety of protective qualities. All of that is changing, albeit very slowly, because of the new labeling guidelines set out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  

The new labeling guidelines mandate the following:

  • Only sunscreens that protect against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays (which contribute to skin cancer and early skin aging) can be labeled as “broad spectrum.”
  • Only broad-spectrum sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used correctly. Sunscreens with an SPF between 2 and 14 can only claim to prevent sunburn.
  • Sunscreens cannot be labeled as waterproof or sweatproof, or be identified as a sunblock, because such claims overstate their effectiveness.
  • Sunscreens cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without reapplication.
  • Water-resistance labeling must indicate whether the sunscreen is effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.
  • All sunscreens must include drug-facts information on the back or side.

“These requirements will not go into effect until December 2012 because sunscreen manufacturers were given a six-month reprieve by the FDA after stating that such labeling changes were a ‘huge undertaking.’ So, at least for this summer, it is up to consumers to choose their sunscreen wisely and, when possible, limit sun exposure.”

Consult your physician if you are concerned about a link between your job and skin cancer. If you would like to speak with an attorney, please call GEK at 213-739-7000 or click here.


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