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Consumer Reports is advising against using spray sunscreen on your children. It found that some contain certain chemicals that can be detrimental to a child if inhaled such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

The FDA announced plans to investigate all sunscreens in 2011 to find out how effective and safe they are for consumers. At that time they also proposed new labeling to help determine the best sunscreens for preventing sunburn and reducing the risk of skin cancer. A proposed rule by the FDA would require manufacturers to limit sunscreen labels to “50 +.” The FDA found no data to support that SPF (sun protection factor) higher than 50 provided any additional protection. It also did not find any data that showed sunscreen sprays were “safe and effective.”

The following labels are not permitted on sunscreen products: “sunblock,” “waterproof,” and “sweatproof.”

Potentially Harmful Chemicals Found in Sunscreens

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the FDA has been slow-moving in its efforts to improve the safety and efficacy of sunscreens. The EWG claims that some sunscreen companies in the United States “petitioned” the FDA to approve new chemicals to act as UV filters in their products. These chemicals are apparently already in use in Europe.

The EWG points to three ingredients that can lead to adverse health effects, including:

Oxybenzone: This chemical can allegedly disrupt hormones and cause allergic skin reactions.
Vitamin A: The EWG states it has been shown to “hasten the development of skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin.
SPF in Moisturizers: The EWG looked at 246 moisturizers and found that only one in four had legitimate sun protection.

Spray Sunscreens and Fire Hazards

In July 2013, the FDA also warned consumers about the flammability of spray sunscreens. The agency warned consumers about avoiding open flames, not smoking when applying it, and not wearing flammable clothing. It received reports of 5 incidents where people who had spray sunscreen on near “sources of flame” suffered burns. Those products were voluntarily recalled.

Staying Safe in the Sun

Consumer Reports found that there is no difference between sunscreens marketed for children versus those marketed for adults. Make sure that you and your children use sunscreen to stay protected and follow these tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation to prevent skin cancer:

• See a doctor every year for a skin examination
• Examine your own skin each month
• Do not use sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months
• Use clothing, hats and sunglasses that block UV rays
• Do not use tanning beds, and do no excessively tan outside
• Stay out of the sun during peak hours which are between 10AM and 4PM
• Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and make sure to reapply every two hours

Hopefully by following these tips you will avoid getting burned and suffering from skin damage or skin cancer. Always read ingredient lists to avoid anything you are allergic to and supervise children who will be out in the sun.

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