Originally published June 8 2012
Man catches fire after applying sunscreen; toxic chemicals are flammable
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Many folks still don't know that sunlight is good for you, that it is a wonderful source of vitamin D. That said, you don't want to overexpose your skin to too much sunlight, lest you wind up with a painful sunburn. Then again, you could get a painful burn simply by using sunscreen, believe it or not, despite its purpose to the contrary.
That's what happened to Brett Sigworth of Stow, Massachusetts. He tells CBS/Boston that after applying Banana Boat Sport Performance spray-on sunscreen before barbecuing, his body literally caught fire.
"I sprayed on the spray-on sunscreen, and then rubbed it on for a few seconds. I walked over to my grill, took one of the holders to move some of the charcoal briquettes around and all of a sudden it just went up my arm," he said.
Flames spread from there.
"I went into complete panic mode and screamed. I've never experienced pain like that in my life," he said.
There is a warning label, but is it too vague?
Thank goodness he wasn't alone. Acting quickly, his friends and girlfriend worked to put out the flames in an act that no doubt saved his life. But not before the lotion did its damage.
Sigworth received second-degree burns (the most painful) on his chest, ear and back in a pattern that corresponds with where he applied the sunscreen. The worst of the burns are around his neck, a very dangerous place because of the proximity to his mouth; breathing in the flames would have likely caused swelling in his esophagus and could have closed off his airway, essentially choking him internally.
Two weeks later, reports said, Sigworth's skin was still healing.
Doctors said if he had remained on fire just a few seconds more, the burns would have been even more severe, perhaps due to the penetrating nature of the sunscreen.
"There is no warning that says this product is flammable when applied to your skin or for a period of time when applied to skin," Sigworth said. "I think if people were told this is flammable for two minutes on your skin afterward, people wouldn't use it."
According to reports, the labeling on the sunscreen actually does say the spray is flammable and that it should not be used near an open flame. It makes sense when you think about it, because the product is oil-based.
However, the label doesn't elaborate on the flammability of the spray after it is applied.
Either way, the company is at least trying to be responsive and responsible.
"We were concerned to hear about Brett's experience," the company said in the statement to CBS Boston. "At Banana Boat, we take these matters very seriously and will begin a prompt investigation as we continue to strive to deliver products of the highest quality to our consumers."
Not the first freak burn accident with sunscreen
Apparently, however, Sigworth's experience is not unique.
Fire inspector Quvondo Johnson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said in an interview with CBS Los Angeles that his department has responded to calls from similar incidents because such sprays contain propellants - flammable gases - in them.
"If it's an open flame, it will ignite whether it's on your skin, whether it's on your clothes, whether it's in the air," he said.
Perhaps the best advice, Johnson says, is to actually read - and heed - the label on such spray sunscreens and stay away from open flames.
Barbequing meat on a grill is one thing, but you should be able to enjoy summer - and the healthy benefits of the sun - without barbequing yourself.
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