A friend of mine spent this past weekend at the beach – it was easy to tell because of the thick tan lines on her shoulders. She mentioned to me that she had to have them evened out at the tanning bed. I don’t think it’s any secret that prolonged, acute exposure to UV rays are bad for your skin and bad for your health. When I told her how I felt about tanning beds, she reassured me that she was going to get a spray tan instead – no harsh exposure. What she didn’t know is that spray tans can be just as dangerous as baking in a tanning bed.
According to some experts, the active chemical in spray tans has the potential to cause genetic alterations and DNA damage. After several tests, it was shown that the chemical agent that turns the skin brown, called DHA, is only approved for external use. This would seem obvious, but what some people are not thinking about is what happens when the chemical is accidentally inhaled. The studies show that even though the FDA claims the chemical should not be ingested or inhaled, the rules are not enforced in salons.
Dr. Lynn Goldman, the dean of George Washington University’s School of Public health, says DHA is ending up in the respiratory system, and spray tanners should be concerned about the potential for lung cancer. Dr. Goldman advocates for further research and investigation into the effects of DHA. Other experts have claimed that DHA is a potential human health hazard and that it could lead to birth defects.
The main problem in this situation lies within the salons. Some claim that you can eat DHA and that it is “food grade” and “approved for ingestion by the FDA.” The reason for these claims is that there is a health supplement that goes by the same acronym; these statements are not true of the chemical in spray tanners. Additionally, although the FDA tells consumers to cover their eyes, nose and lips when using the product, many salon personnel discourage the use of protective eyewear and tell customers to simply hold their breath and close their eyes.
It seems that nowadays there is not healthy way to get a little color. Despite the warnings from the FDA, international health organizations and increased taxes, many continue to go to the tanning salon. Spray tans have recently been viewed as a healthy alternative to baking in fake UV rays – but in light of this new research what will “fake bakers” do now?
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