How Sunscreen Can Burn You | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

How Sunscreen Can Burn You

That sunscreen you dutifully spray throughout the day could actually get you burned.

We're not talking sunburn. We're talking people bursting into flames because they're wearing sunscreen.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration recorded five incidents in which people were burned after their sunscreen caught on fire. One person was hurt after lighting a cigarette. Another stood near a citronella candle.

One man in Massachusetts applied spray sunscreen and then went to tend his backyard grill. The flames leapt to his arm, then traveled to his torso. He suffered second-degree burns and was treated in a hospital burn unit.

And a woman in Norfolk, Va., applied spray sunscreen, waited several minutes for the product to dry, and then turned on a welding torch, a local TV station reported. "My whole arm went on fire," she told the station.

Many spray sunscreens include alcohol or other flammable ingredients.

In these cases, the people had used Banana Boat sunscreen sprays. The brand's corporate parent, Energizer Holdings Inc., recalled those products last fall.

The problems appear to have been caused by a spray valve opening that "dispenses more than is typical in the industry for continuous sun care sprays," according to the recall notice.

A spokeswoman for Energizer Holdings told Shots via email that the company has redesigned the spray valve:

We redesigned the delivery mechanism and rigorously tested it through our comprehensive safety and quality assurance processes. New products began shipping in November 2012.

But people should be careful with all sunscreen sprays, the FDA cautions. The agency said Wednesday that people should never apply sunscreen sprays near an open flame like a BBQ grill or candle, and not approach a flame until the product has had time to dry completely.

Fear of immolation won't get you off the hook when it comes to sun protection, though. The FDA still wants people using sunscreens or covering up to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Lotion-type sunscreens don't post a fire risk. Nor does wearing a hat and long sleeves.

To make choosing sunscreen less of a chore, last year the agency issued new regulations aimed at making the SPF ratings on sunscreens simpler and easier to understand.

Sunscreens need to be rated at SPF 15 or higher and labeled "broad spectrum" to claim that they protect against both sunburn and skin cancer.

The FDA also proposed that SPFs go no higher than SPF 50, because the agency thinks there's no evidence that SPFs higher than that grant more protection. But that rule has not been made final.


Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Many Views Of Muhammad, As A Man And As A Prophet

In her new book The Lives of Muhammad, Boston University professor Kecia Ali discusses the different ways that Muslim and non-Muslim biographers have depicted the prophet over the centuries.
NPR

Chef Ottolenghi Makes The Case For 'Plenty More' Vegetables

Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi talks with Rachel Martin about the difference between supermarket hummus and Middle Eastern hummus and why he doesn't like to call his cookbooks "vegetarian."
NPR

Will Ebola Impact Midterm Elections?

Weekend Edition Sunday's new segment, "For the Record," kicks off with politics and Ebola. NPR's Rachel Martin asks NPR's Mara Liasson and Dallas columnist J. Floyd about the politics of the disease.
NPR

Getting Medical Advice Is Often Just A Tap Away

NPR's Arun Rath speaks with infectious disease specialist and HealthTap member Dr. Jonathan Po about telemedicine and hypochondria in a time of heightened health concern.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.