Ask Well: Are Spray-On Sunscreens Safe?Posted on August 25, 2014 by ECR Louisville in Blog, Caregiver Education
Spray-on sunscreen has airborne particles that can spread or be inhaled, or can get into one’s eyes. Is this safe?
The short answer is that for now, not even the Food and Drug Administration knows.
In 2011, with the number of sunscreen sprays “greatly increasing,” the agency asked their makers to demonstrate their safety and efficacy. Little was known about sprays compared to rub-on sunscreen products like lotions. It was unclear, for instance, how much sunscreen spray consumers typically use, or what amounts effectively get on the skin.
The F.D.A. also proposed adding a warning to package labels to address the possibility that inhaling aerosolized particles could be unhealthy: “When using this product, keep away from face to avoid breathing it.”
Manufacturers of sunscreen sprays provided the data, and the F.D.A. is still reviewing that information. So we still don’t know how effective sprays are at filtering ultraviolet radiation, let alone if inhalation results in health problems.
The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, recommends consumers avoid all spray-on sunscreens of any particle size, especially ones that use mineral ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which they say may pose problems if inhaled. Paul Pestano, a research analyst at the group, cited a 2006 report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, that concluded that titanium dioxide is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” That conclusion was based on research involving rats inhaling high doses, but it’s still worrisome, he said.
There’s another reason to choose sunscreen wisely. In 2013, the F.D.A. warned about the risk of burns in those applying sunscreen sprays near open flames, such as outdoor barbecue grills or citronella candles. Many sunscreen sprays contain ingredients, like alcohol, that can catch fire.
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The New York TimesBy CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS