School Sunscreen Ban Results In Serious Burns

By Amir Khan on June 24, 2012 9:25 PM EDT

Sunburn
A school's ban on sunscreen left two students with severe sunburn, according to the student's mother (Photo: Creative Commons)

A school's ban on sunscreen left two students with severe sunburn, according to the student's mother. Violet and Zoe Michener, who attend a school in the Tacoma School District in Washington, came back from a field trip with burns so bad their mother rushed them to the hospital.

"I was crying about my sunburn," Zoe told ABC News.

Tacoma School District, and many other schools across the country, ban sunscreen without a doctor's note over fear of causing reactions in other children.

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"Because so many additives in lotions and sunscreens cause allergic reaction in children, you have to really monitor that," Dan Voelpel, spokesman for the district, told ABC News.

Both sisters have a form of albinism that makes them sensitive to the sun. Their mother did not apply sunscreen to them before the left for school before it was raining, but even if she did, doctors recommend reapplying every 2-3 hours.

"Not only does a parent have to take an unrealistic (an un-intuitive) step by visiting a doctor for a 'prescription' for an over-the-counter product, children are not allowed to carry it on their person and apply as needed," Jesse Michener, the mother of the two girls, wrote in a blog post. "Had my children gone to school slathered in sunscreen (which they did not, it was raining), by noon - when the sun came out - they would have needed to reapply anyway."

Having received a severe or blistering sunburn as a child or teen severely increases the risk for melanoma, according to the National Cancer Institute. Melanoma is a tumor of the cells that produce the pigment melanin, which is responsible for the color of your skin. Although melanoma occurs predominantly on skin, it can occur anywhere melanin is found, such as the eye or bowel. It is much less common than other skin cancers, but is responsible for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths, killing about 48,000 people worldwide annually, according to the World Health Organization.  Melanoma deaths account for $3.5 billion in lost productivity every year, according to the CDC.

Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is one of the best methods of prevention against melanoma and other kinds of skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wearing  sunglasses, hats and seeking shade during midday hours also helps.

Dermatologist Doris Day told ABC News the ban is dangerous.

"I can't see any justification for any school to tell a child that they are not allowed to apply sunscreen," she said.

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