While individuals and interest groups are often the catalysts to spark changes in society, it is usually policies instituted by governmental bodies that cement changes on the broadest scale. School boards must act to institutionalize sun protection policies for schoolchildren; communities must institute policies providing sun protection in parks, outdoor arenas, and other recreation venues; OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and state and national government must mandate that employers institute UV protection standards not just in outdoor workplaces but in indoor worksites exposing employees to UV.
Parents working together can lobby school boards to install shade structures and to pass policies allowing students to use sunscreen and wear hats and sunglasses during school hours. They can also advocate for sun safety education to become mandatory in schools. “You need to teach kids about sun protection at an early age,” said Samantha Guild, an advocate with the non-profit research and advocacy organization AIM at Melanoma. “It’s the time when kids are learning good behaviors. It’s like learning to brush your teeth, so it becomes second nature.”
Outdoor workers are highly vulnerable to skin cancer because of everyday UV damage. Professional drivers are also continually UV-exposed, since 60 percent of UVA rays pass right through car and truck windows. Labor organizations and local governments can play a key role in developing employment policies that protect these workers, whether by calling for shade structures or variable work hours to avoid peak sun exposure, or by mandating that employers provide UVA-protective film or glass on driver-side car windows along with sun protection education. Research has shown that workers employed in settings that are supportive of sun protection are more likely to practice sun-protective behaviors. In your own community, as parks, buildings and public spaces are planned, you can play a role by advocating for shade trees and shade structures.
One piece of legislation not directly covered in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, but with potentially far-reaching impact if passed, is the Sunscreen Innovation Act. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill requiring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up its currently stalled review process of new sunscreen ingredients. The next step is for the Senate to vote on a nearly identical bill. Blaming its backlog on insufficient resources, the FDA has failed to expand its list of approved sunscreen ingredients since 1999, even though many formulas offering better protection have been available in Europe for years. Contact your Senator to express support for this bill.
Published on August 27, 2014