According to a panel of medical experts, the active chemical used in spray tans, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), has the potential to cause genetic alterations and DNA damage. Ten of the most-current publicly available scientific studies on DHA were received by the panel. These studies included a federal report ABC News obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Six medical experts in areas ranging across the fields of dermatology, toxicology and pulmonary medicine expressed their “concerns” after reviewing the literature and reports about DHA, the main chemical in the popular “spray-on” tan. The spray-on tan has conventionally been referred to as the “safe” alternative to tanning under ultraviolet lights.
The FDA originally approved DHA for “external” use back in 1977, when it was popular in tanning lotions. Those lotions, previously famous for turning skin orange, were never as popular as current products that produce better tans. In recent years, the use of DHA has exploded in the newer “spray” application of the product, which provides a more even tan for consumers. I’m reasonably sure the FDA never envisioned the chemical’s use in spray tan back in the 1970s. It should be noted that the use of DHA in ‘tanning’ booths as an all-over spray has not been approved by the FDA. That’s because safety data to support this use has not been submitted to the agency for review and evaluation.
The FDA warns consumers who spray tan that they are “not protected from the unapproved use of this color additive” if they are inhaling the mist or allowing it to get inside their body. The FDA recommends that “consumers should request measures to protect their eyes and mucous membranes and prevent inhalation” if they use the spray tan products.
ABC News found some tanning salons offering consumers advice that directly conflicts with what the FDA has recommended. ABC News also discovered many tanning salons across the nation wrongly telling consumers on their websites that DHA is so safe that it is “food grade,” and, that it’s “approved for ingestion by the FDA.” They obviously are confused on what they are dealing with.
The FDA report received by ABC News contains a great deal of useful information. Agency scientists wrote in 1999 that, “New information regarding the genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of DHA has become available since the listing of DHA as a color additive.” In the report, agency scientists cited the “new information” discovered by non-FDA researchers who had tested DHA in laboratory settings and found it had the potential for what they called a “mutagenic” effect on genes.
The concerns coming from the panel of experts include whether there is a potential for cancer and other health effects such as birth defects. There appears to be enough concern to promote the FDA to require additional testing. A full review of the product’s safety is warranted that takes into account all potential health implications. The explosion in DHA’s use in spray tanning means many more people will be exposed to it in a manner that has never been subject to an FDA safety review.
The FDA says that no U.S. manufacturer has ever attempted to go through a safety review of DHA in spray tans. The agency told ABC News in an email that it does not step in to stop what it calls on its website “the unapproved use” of DHA because, the “FDA does not regulate the operation of commercial enterprises such as indoor or sunless tanning salons. It says this would be a function for OSHA or state/local public health regulators, much as for hair or nail salons. FDA has oversight responsibility for the safety of the cosmetic products and the devices [UVA light sources and beds] in the indoor tanning salons.” So it appears that some changes may be needed to give the FDA full authority to regulate this industry. It was reported that no state or local entity in the country regulates spray tans. ABC News did a very good job of investigative reporting in this matter. Because it contains much more good information, I suggest you get the entire story from ABC News.
Source: ABC News
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