States move to give students protection from the sun
(Md.) Sunscreen has probably never been in more demand as much of the nation swelters this summer under dangerously warm conditions. But summer school staff in many states are still not allowed to oversee student application without special permission from parents or a physician.
Despite the growing threat that skin cancer poses to the general population, there is still only a fraction–about 2.5 percent—of the nation’s school districts that authorize students to apply sunscreen protection while on campus or during school-related activities, according to a 2016 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier this spring, Maryland became one of a handful of states to require districts establish policies that would allow students to possess and to use sunscreen at school-sponsored activities without written permission from a health care provider.
The bill, which Gov. Larry Hogan signed in April, took effect at the beginning of this month. Hogan himself underwent surgery earlier this year to remove skin cancer cells.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers sunscreen an over-the-counter product, many school districts require a doctor’s note allowing students to use it on campus or during school-related activities.
California became the first state to pass blanket legislation allowing sunscreen in K-12 schools in 2002, but it wasn’t until ten years later that another state, New York, followed with a similar law with the condition that students bring a note from home.
In 2017, six states—Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Utah and Washington—passed sunscreen legislation. This year, the list included Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.
According to a 2016 survey from the federal School Health Policies and Practices Study, only a small percentage of district require schools to let students apply sunscreen while almost half recommend the practice.
The states with the highest rates of skin cancer, surprisingly, are not those with beach-front resorts—Utah, Delaware, Vermont, Minnesota and Idaho.
The exact language of the authorizations vary state to state. Kentucky, for instance, includes an educational component aimed at getting students more information about skin cancer prevention. Hawaii’s version calls for the state to promote construction of playgrounds in shaded areas. California’s law specifically allows students to wear protective clothing, including hats.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. The CDC recommends using sunscreen all year round—not just during the summer—because ultraviolet radiation isn’t filtered out by cloudy or hazy skies. UV rays can also reflect off surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow.