Over the years, I’ve written many articles and blog posts about the dangers of sunscreen and the potential health threat some of them can inadvertently cause, but I just read a story that puts this concern about the hazards of sunscreen into a whole new perspective! A very unfortunate man in Massachusetts named Brett Sigworth suffered severe burns all over his chest and arms as a result of the spray-on sunscreen he used.
After covering himself with Banana Boat spray-on sunscreen, the man walked over to his grill and in a heartbeat, turned into a human torch. Yikes! If you use spray-on sunscreens you probably know that a lot of them are made with alcohol so you might think this accident was the result of him not paying attention to the warning on the label. Apparently not. It seems the label on the bottle didn’t provide enough information about the health hazards of using the product near an open flame.
So how flammable is sunscreen? For most sunscreen, the answer is not very. Lotion sunscreen will protect your skin from the sun without risk of actually burning, but spray-on sunscreens do present a degree of danger. Most sprays, be they sunscreen or cooking oil, are aerosols, meaning that they use some form of flammable gas as a propellant. Normally, that flammable propellant dissipates very quickly after being sprayed and the user is left with non-flammable sunscreen on their body. In this case, Brett Sigworth must have approached his grill a little too soon after using the spray and paid too high a price for it.
While this is a tragic incident, I think it is also an opportunity for all of us to learn from someone else’s mistake. If you expect to grill over the summer, plan to attend a bonfire, or use a lighter for any reason, avoid spray-on sunscreens. It’s as simple as that, really. While the sunscreen that you rub on your skin isn’t always a great option, at least it won’t put you at risk of catching on fire! If you insist on using a spray variety, try to use one with a pump spray versus an aerosol and always be sure to wait a few minutes before approaching an open flame.
You can read more about this case over at CBS