Many have heeded the warnings about too much sun exposure, many have begun to shy away from tanning beds, but a new way to get the dark glowing skin that men and women long for is to have a spray tan. But, according to ABC News, the main chemical used in the popular spray tans is now raising cancer concerns.
A panel of medical experts reviewed various data including 10 recent, publicly available studies on DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and a federal report the news source obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The six-member panel included experts in dermatology, toxicology, and pulmonary medicine.
Spray Tanning Safe?
The panel announced that it has “concerns” about DHA, a chemical used as a “safe” option to tanning under ultraviolet lights or the sun. ABC News noted that the reviewed studies did not test on human subjects, but studies revealed that DHA altered the genes of a number of cells and organisms when tested in a variety of labs and by different scientists, all conducted after DHA was approved for use in the consumer market, said ABC News.
“I have concerns,” Dr. Rey Panettieri, a toxicologist and lung specialist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told ABC News. “The reason I’m concerned is the deposition of the tanning agents into the lungs could really facilitate or aid systemic absorption—that is, getting into the bloodstream.”
“These compounds in some cells could actually promote the development of cancers or malignancies,” he said.
DHA Is NOT FDA Approved For Spray Tanning
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved DHA for “external” use in 1977 in tanning lotions. Today, DHA is used in the spray applications that tout an even, allover tan without the dangers of UVA and UVB rays.
The FDA told ABC News it never imagined DHA use in spray tans in the 1970s when the technology was not yet discovered and warned “DHA should not be inhaled or ingested.”
The FDA states on its web site that,
[t]he use of DHA in ‘tanning’ booths as an all-over spray has not been approved by the FDA, since safety data to support this use has not been submitted to the agency for review and evaluation.
ABC’s undercover investigation revealed that some salons provide advice in conflict with FDA recommendations and all claimed spray tanning was safe. Many claimed DHA is not only safe, but food grade, which may be a misinterpretation with the omega 3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic (also known as DHA), a different product approved by the FDA and found in salmon or milk, explained ABC News. Many salons ABC visited did not even have eye or nose plugs or protective gear for the mouth; those that did recommended against the protective devices.
The ABC panel is calling for more testing. In response, the tanning industry has announced a major national training initiative over the next few weeks.