Questions Raised Over Spray Tan Safety

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AVON, Ohio -- Some sun worshipers looking to avoid harmful UV rays are turning to spray tanning as a safe alternative. Now, a new warning about the main ingredient used in the spray formula is sparking concern.

According to a panel of medical experts, the chemical used in spray tans, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) has the potential to cause genetic mutations and DNA damage.

DHA was first approved by the FDA in the 70's for external use in sunless tanning products and lotions. The concern now is the potential danger after the chemical is inhaled or ingested into the bloodstream. So far, studies have only been completed in labs, not on humans.

MetroHealth Medical Center Dermatologist Dr. Pamela Davis says until human studies are complete, it's hard to tell if DHA is dangerous. "Theoretically, if we were to get enough into our systems, we could be altering our DNA, then we think about cancers, etc. But that's a jump, that's a leap and no one knows that information," said Dr. Davis.

The FDA recommends spray tan users protect their mucous membranes by using nose plugs and eye covers.

"This is quite unsettling for my field. DHA has been around since 1977," said Davis. "There is potentially some risk but we don't know the answers to that yet. So you have to go in informed. And make sure at least, if you're going to spray tan, you have the nose plugs and goggles, keep your mouth closed and don't overuse it like anything else."

Karen Ryan is the owner of a custom spray tan business, "Tan with Kare" in Avon.

"This is a business I've had for ten years, over those 10 years, I've tanned people from every walk of life. Even pregnant women who've went on to have beautiful babies, nothing with mutations," said Ryan.

Although Ryan admits more research is needed, she says most of the products used in her spray formula are all-natural. "I used Vitamin E, aloe, ginseng, rosemary and then DHA which comes from a sugar beet."

Customers like Maureen Ginley said, "Until something comes out that says its harmful to humans, I'm fine with it."

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