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Spray Sunscreens: More Concerns Raised About Health Risk

By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Spray sunscreens are hugely popular and convenient, especially for parents applying it on impatient kids, but several groups are warning that they may pose a health risk and should be used with caution.

In its latest sunscreen ratings, Consumer Reports cautions people to "use spray sunscreens carefully."

About a year ago, the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating the health risks of inhaling spray sunscreens.

FDA has requested additional data from manufacturers of sunscreen spray products to ensure their effectiveness and to determine whether they present a safety concern if inhaled unintentionally.

"Until we know more, our experts say to avoid using sprays on children, and do not spray them directly on your face," Consumer Reports said. "Instead, spray sunscreen onto your hands then apply it to your face. Sprays are flammable, so let them dry before going near an open flame."

The Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., has also expressed concerns.

"These super-popular aerosolized sunscreens may seem like a dream come true. But they may pose serious inhalation risks. They certainly make it too easy to apply too little or miss a spot," EWA said.

The American Academy of Dermatology also says spray sunscreens should be use with care while the FDA investigates. The academy also notes that it is difficult to determine if users are getting adequate coverage.

"Never spray sunscreen around or near the face or mouth. Spraying adequate amounts of the sunscreen into your hands and then applying the sunscreen can help avoid the fumes while also ensuring adequate coverage. When applying spray sunscreens on children, be aware of the direction of the wind to avoid inhalation," AAD said.

So far, the FDA has not disclosed any evidence that spray sunscreens pose a health problem.

As for the flammability issue, the FDA reported five separate incidents in recent years in which people wearing sunscreen spray near sources of flames were seriously burned.

The specific products cited in those cases were recalled voluntarily and are no longer for sale.

The FDA is also considering whether to require sunscreens with an SPF of 50 or more to be simply rated as 50+. There is currently no research to support any benefits of sunscreen with a sun protection factor above 50, according to the agency.

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