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Pharmacist warns against long-term use of sunscreen on infants

Chemicals present in sunscreen could be harmful to growth and development in children under the age of three, according to a Finnish pharmacist. Pilvi Auvinen, a pharmacologist from southeast Finland, told Yle that even sunscreens recommended for young children could be harmful if used regularly for long periods of time.

Rauman Poroholman uimaranta.
Ilmastonmuutos tuo pidemmät kesäkaudet ja lyhyemmät talvet. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

When summer rolls around, many parents reach for the sunscreen on supermarket and pharmacy shelves to protect their young ones from damaging ultraviolet radiation in the sun’s rays.

However a pharmacist from the southern Savo region in eastern Finland is warning parents that off-the-shelf sunscreens contain chemical substances that protect the skin by being absorbed under the skin. The trouble with that, says pharmacist Pilvi Auvinen, is that in children these substances act like hormones.

Auvinen pointed out that because young children – under the age of three — have very thin skin the chemicals in sunscreen are rapidly absorbed into the subcutaneous level.

"There is evidence that they may be detrimental to growth and development in children. The chemical substances behave like hormones," Auvinen noted.

The pharmacist noted however, that a small amount of sunscreen applied to the skin of a young child is no cause for concern. On the other hand, using sunscreen regularly on infants could be harmful.

"Long-term use of these sunscreens on large areas is not recommended," Auvinen commented. Instead, she urged parents of young children to use clothing to protect them from strong sunlight.

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