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Health: Sunscreen Danger?

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stephanie-web Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A warning about sunscreen and outdoor grilling. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has the story of a freak accident that almost killed a man.

Brett Sigworth says it was only a second standing in front of his grill before his body was engulfed in flames.

“I went into complete panic mode and screamed. I’ve never experienced pain like that in my life,” said Brett.

He was at his lakefront home entertaining friends when he did something he says nearly killed him.

“I came out to put on sunscreen, went to corner of the deck sprayed it on, rubbed it on. I walked over to my grill, took the holder to move bricks around and all of a sudden it went up my arm,” said Brett.

It was a Banana Boat Sport aerosol sunscreen that Brett says caught fire. He says it burned where ever the block went.

His skin is still healing, the worst around his neck.

Pictures from a hospital burn unit show the extent of his second degree burns on his chest, his ear, and on his back. You can see the lines where he sprayed the sunscreen.

“No warning that says flammable when applied to skin or period of time after applied to skin,” said Brett.

The warning only reads, “flammable, don’t use near heat, flame or while smoking.”

“I think if people were told this is flammable for two minutes on your skin, people wouldn’t use it,” said Brett.

“I think it is probably an unusual accident, something that was very rare,” said Dr. William Hughes, Director of the Burn Center at Temple University Hospital.

He says alcohol, which is flammable, is often used as an accelerant in aerosol sunscreen, and it may not have dried before Brett went near the grill.

“If you’re going to spray any kind of spray on yourself that has an accelerant, do make sure it dries completely. Do make sure you don’t smell the alcohol anymore before going near a flame,” said Dr. Hughes.

Brett says people need to be more aware of the potential danger. He wants more warnings and testing to see why this happened.

“I had no idea, and it was so scary. And I wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone else,” said Brett.

We checked the labels of other spray sunscreens, from a number of makers, many contain alcohol and warn against using near flames or other heat sources.

A spokeswoman from Banana Boat tells CBS-3, “We were concerned to hear about Brett’s experience. 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.”

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