Update: Europe gets hot and bothered over sun cream labelling
22 February 2006
Arthur Rogers/Brussels, Belgium
A month after international health experts queried any link between sun protection products and the incidence of melanoma (see link below) the European Union is side-stepping the whole issue, at least regarding occupational safety.
The European Parliament and EU ministers have agreed that rules on exposure to solar radiation should be left to national governments.
Legislation approved by the parliament on 14 February concentrated instead on artificial sources of optical radiation including lasers, ultraviolet and infrared waves, and intense light such as that produced by welding equipment.
The exclusion will also affect prolonged exposure to 'natural' radiation such as that experienced by the emergency services in tackling forest fires.
'We can't legislate for sunshine or rain across the 25 member states,' said Irish MEP Marian Harkin.
But British representative Stephen Hughes fears legal uncertainty regarding the responsibility of employers for staff travelling across multiple European jurisdictions.
Within four years, states must comply with minimum EU standards of protection against artificial radiation based on recommendations from bodies such as the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation.
Ministers and MEPs have tacitly agreed that sunshine exposure falls under the scope of a general obligation in EU legislation on employers to guarantee 'the safety and health of workers in every aspect related to work'.
Europe's cosmetics industry is launching a counter-offensive against demands for tougher regulation on sun creams.
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