Some look on in horror at the objectification of little girls in beauty pageants -- perhaps even a form of child abuse. Who knows what kind of psychological trauma the excessive focus on looks and competition breeds into pre-pre-tweens. Aside from loss of toddlerhood, a new toxicity, this one of a chemical nature, is now rearing its head. These toddlers can't properly compete if their skin tone is not bronzed with a spray-on glow, or so their mommy handlers believe. New analysis from George Washington University is raising concerns that the chemical in spray tan formulations, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), is a potential carcinogen because it damages DNA (our genetic code) and causes mutations. This is the first step on the road to cancer and most mutagens are also carcinogens.
Is this a skin cancer risk? Probably not. On the skin, DHA binds to the layer of dead cells that coat the skin; by combining with proteins in the dead skin layer, DHA creates an orange-brown glow. Yes, our outermost layer of skin which we touch everyday is actually composed of dead cells on their way to being shed. The spray-on tan fades as these dead cells are lost over time. Just like dead men can't talk, dead cells can't mutate. Once a cell is dead there is very little that DHA can do to it. And since very little of the DHA penetrates beyond the layer of dead skin, tanning creams and sprays have generally been considered safe.
But hang on a second. Have you ever watched spray-tanning in action? The subject is fogged from head to toe in a cloud of DHA -- how else can you get that all over tan? Sticking one's head into a cloud of DHA is not a good idea since that is where your breathing apparatus, the nose and lungs, exist. And while you may try to hold your breath, you can't do it very long and a substantial amount of DHA can be inhaled. This is exactly the concern now being raised by the GWU toxicologists. The entry of spray-on mutagen into living tissue (the lungs) is a health risk especially in the very young whose lungs are growing rapidly. The degree of risk is not easy to tell because this scenario has not been tested in animals and the phenomenon is still too new in humans to know the outcome. The spray-on fad in teens is alarming and should be minimized to keep our kids away from this human experiment.
That brings us back to the toxicity that is toddlers in tiaras. The Youtube clips of moms spraying their little ones up close and in the face are hideous as baby Cleopatra ducks and gags. Its even more difficult to watch knowing that these moms are forcing a dangerous chemical into these immature lungs. The FDA, which is supposed to ensure the safety of cosmetic products, should take action to limit the the access of parents and children to spray-on tans. We don't let minors into tanning parlors because of the genetic damage caused by harsh UV radiation in that method of tanning. Similarly, young children should not be part of the DHA spray-on tan human experiment.
And wouldn't it be nice if the organizers of the next "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant have the common sense to ban spray-on tan and do something for a change to promote the health and well-being of its contestants.