A report on that policy was posted Friday afternoon on washingtonpost.com. Late Friday, health officials said they recognized that the policy had caused confusion, and said revisions were underway.
The revised policy will make it clear “that, in fact, parents do” need to give permission for kids to have sunblock, said Clifford C. Mitchell, assistant health director for environmental health and food protection.
But he said, “It will be silent on the thing that has raised questions. It will not deal with issues of contact in any way.”
The guidelines, issued June 10, had been described as among the toughest in the nation.
The guidelines said, “Camp staff should limit touching the camper as much as possible. Under no circumstances should campers assist each other in the application of sunscreen.” The policy also prohibited camps from supplying sunscreen to campers.
“We regret the confusion caused,” Mitchell said Friday night in an interview.
The rules were aimed at protecting children from inappropriate touching at camp, but they came as the federal government campaigns for parents to get more serious about protecting children against damage to skin the sun’s rays can inflict.
Health officials had argued that their motivation was strictly about safety. “Our intention is certainly not to discourage the use of sunblock,” Mitchell said. “It’s really to walk a fine line between protecting kids’ skin and making sure they feel personally safe.”
Mitchell said he did not know of any cases of inappropriate touching by counselors that might have led to the new regulations.
At camps across Maryland, parents are receiving permission forms asking whether their child may use sunscreen while at camp. At the Barrie Day Camp in Silver Spring, for example, parents who allow their child to use sunscreen must also check off on whether the sunblock may be applied with or without assistance from staff members.
“The camp is just doing what the state ordered them to do,” said Paul Basken, a father of two children who attend Barrie camp. “But this can’t be serious. I mean, if I didn’t feel safe about the camp, I just wouldn’t send my kids there.”
Before the revision started Friday night, many parents, physicians and dermatologists had expressed worry that Maryland’s approach could result in a surge of sunburn cases. “Restricting counselors’ ability to apply sunscreen or assist with sunscreen reapplication could make it more likely that children will not be protected from the damaging rays of the sun,” said Ronald Moy, president of the American Academy of Dermatology.
The rules are “absurd,” said Maral Skelsey, a dermatologist in Chevy Chase. “This is the biggest known carcinogen that children are exposed to. We should be asking camp counselors to take an active role in promoting skin protection.”