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updated: 10/19/2012 6:10 PM

Banana Boat recalls sunscreen due to fire risk

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The maker of Banana Boat sunscreen is recalling some of its spray-on products after reports that a handful of people have caught on fire after applying the lotion and coming in contact with an open flame.

Energizer Holdings said Fridaythat it is pulling 23 varieties of UltraMist sunscreen off store shelves due to the risk of the lotion igniting when exposed to fire.

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The recall includes aerosol products like UltraMist Sport, UltraMist Ultra Defense and UltraMist Kids.

A company spokesman said there have been five reports of people suffering burns after using the sunscreen in the last year. Four burn cases were reported in the U.S. and one in Canada.

More than 20 million units have been sold since UltraMist launched in 2010, the spokesman said.

Energizer said in a statement that the problem appears to be caused by UltraMist's spray valve, which is over applying the product. As a result the lotion is taking longer to dry, which raises the flammability risk.

"If a consumer comes into contact with a flame or spark prior to complete drying of the product on the skin, there is a potential for the product to ignite," the company said.

UltraMist's label warns users: "Do not use in the presence of a flame or spark. Keep away from sources of ignition -- no smoking."

But dermatologists say most people don't read such labels.

"So many people put this on outside, while they're on their way to activities, so I just don't think people are aware of that," said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital.

Green said aerosol sunscreens have become popular in recent years because they're faster and easier to apply, but not necessarily more effective.

"I think the old-fashioned creams apply better and seem to protect you better -- the sprays just don't seem to work as well," Green said.

The company said it has notified the Food and Drug Administration about the voluntary recall.

Consumers who purchased the products are being told not to use them. More information is available from the manufacturer at 1-800-SAFESUN.

Burn experts said Friday the problem appears to be extremely rare.

"We've found no evidence of this happening before the incidents that came to our attention," said Dan Dillard, executive director of the Burn Prevention Network. Dillard's group was contacted earlier in the year about two burns related to UltraMist. One case involved a man who was standing near a barbecue grill, the other case involved a woman working with welding equipment. Both cases resulted in second and third degree burns.

Dillard pointed out that the ingredients used in aerosol sprays are known to be flammable.

"The alcohol and petroleum products listed on the containers are flammable, so the only thing you're missing in the heat triangle is an ignition source," Dillard said.

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