Six out of ten sunbeds tested in a Derbyshire County Council survey were found to emit dangerously high levels of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Tanning lamps are restricted to a certain power by law and the legal limit across Europe of 0.3 watts per square metre was adopted in 2009 because of growing health concerns. But even sunbeds operating at this level give off the equivalent UV radiation to an hour’s midday sun in Australia.
Derbyshire County Council trading standards officers carried out a survey of tanning salons in Chesterfield, Erewash and the High Peak with support from district and borough councils.
Spot checks on 32 tanning salons found 45 sunbeds that breached the legal UV output limit. And five of these units had emission ratings at least double the recommended level. Officers found new sunbed tubes among those that exceeded the maximum limit – despite warnings given to the tanning industry about the new regulations.
Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Dave Allen said: “The laws and regulations associated with sunbeds are intended to protect people from exposure to potentially dangerous levels of radiation. “It’s shocking that the majority of tanning beds in local salons failed to meet these safety standards. “We want to ensure that Derbyshire sunbed operators meet their legal obligations to ensure the safety of their employees and sunbed users. “We’ve issued warnings to all businesses where we found tanning units that are too powerful. We will continue to monitor them and if they fail to bring their equipment into compliance they will face enforcement action.”
Cancer Research UK estimates that sunbeds cause around 100 deaths from melanoma every year in the UK. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer where cancerous growths develop due to unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells, most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds.
The charity also warns that using a sunbed once or more a month could increase the chances of developing skin cancer by more than 50 per cent as the harmful UV rays damage skin cell DNA. Sunbeds also cause premature skin ageing, which means skin becomes coarse, leathery and wrinkled at a younger age.
The council’s trading standards officer also advised businesses about their duty to prevent under 18s from using tanning facilities and their responsibility to provide customers with accurate safety information.
The results of the survey are similar to other surveys carried out elsewhere in the UK.
People who visit tanning salons should ask if the beds comply with safety recommendations before using them.