Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Ordinary use of waterproof sunscreen can cause blindness.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 1998]
Origins: May 1998 saw this anonymous
We shouldn't have to tell you this, but we will anyway: That a product is waterproof doesn't mean it cannot be flushed from eyes or that it's capable of chemically bonding to eyeballs. Consider mascara, if you will. Waterproof mascara has been around for a very long time. Application problems routinely cause the product to end up in the eyes of users as well as on their lashes. Though mascara-related injuries have resulted in a number of emergency room visits over the years (2,390 in 1983, for example), not one of them has been for temporary or permanent blindness brought about by it being a waterproof product.
(In case you're interested in what does bring people into the ER with mascara-related injuries, a slip of the applicator can injure or irritate the eye, or result in infection. Bacterial contamination of the product also can represent a danger. In extreme cases, dermatologists report, mascara has caused inflammation of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane lining the eyelids, or allergic reactions.)
No company could get away with omitting a warning label on a known-to-be-hazardous product because such an admission would "scare consumers." Were that the case, you'd be hard-pressed to find warning labels on anything. Companies do not wave these red flags because they want to, but because they have to. As well, they don't get to decide which warning to display or that the health benefits the use of their products confer outweigh whatever risks the ordinary use of their products engender.
Numerous agencies have had to deal with panicked inquiries as a result of this ridiculous warning. The American Association of Poison Control Centers in Washington received numerous calls and
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) confirmed that the sunscreen scare was "an unsubstantiated story":
There is no evidence, scientific or otherwise, that any such harmful effects have ever resulted from the use of sunscreens. Sunscreens are safe.On
No known link between sunscreen eye exposure and blindness:The American Academy of Ophthalmology issued their own press release about this myth on
In the past three weeks, the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), which operates the New Jersey Poison Center Hotline and is located at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, received calls from concerned citizens regarding the fear that getting sunscreen in the eye will cause blindness. Many of these calls have been from parents who are worried about using sunscreen on young children. According to Steven
Any of these sunscreens or suntan lotions can cause fairly significant irritation to the eyes. But there is no documented evidence of sunscreen causing blindness or permanent damage.Those still not fully convinced this is a hoax should visit the Prevent Blindness America's article about this scare.
If you get sunscreen (or most any other foreign object) in your eye, rinse it out with plain old H2O.
Barbara "water you waiting for?" Mikkelson
Last updated: 31 December 2005
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