Buying into danger

DIY danger … sunbeds need to be properly maintained or they could start emitting more radiation than they should, warned the Cancer Council NSW.Struggling solarium operators are offloading unwanted sunbeds online, prompting calls for a government buyback of the machines to prevent dangerous in-home tanning.
Nanjing Night Net

The powerful units are being sold for as little as $200 as the industry faces collapse owing to regulations restricting the use of solariums.

For people under the age of 35, using sunbeds – which emit ultraviolet radiation through fluorescent lamps – increases their risk of forming a melanoma by 98 per cent. There are fears a rise in the popularity of home sunbeds will lead to more cases of skin cancer as people tan without supervision.

A professor of public health at the University of Sydney, Simon Chapman, said it would be a ”public service” for state governments to buy the machines at the low market price and destroy them, or to outlaw reselling them.

”The biggest risks are for young people in their teens and early 20s. Because it’s not a commercial premise you could use the thing as much as you wanted,” Professor Chapman said. ”They’re completely outside the reach of any regulation or inspection and that’s a real problem.”

In NSW solarium owners say they have been left in the dark about a government plan to support them as they face the loss of their livelihoods once the ban on commercial tanning units starts, at the end of 2014.

When the ban was announced in February, the government said it would help them dispose of the tanning units and diversify their businesses. But Fiona Gamble, from Soleil Tanning in Darlinghurst, said she had found it difficult to get answers from the Environment Protection Authority.

”I know a lot of salon owners have been trying to seek clarification from the Environment Minister Robyn Parker but they are very bad at returning phone calls,” she said.

Ms Gamble said the industry was regulated at present ”but if you are using a sunbed at home and you don’t know what you’re doing, you could be at risk”.

The chief executive of the Cancer Council NSW, Andrew Penman, urged consumers not to buy a tanning unit for home use.

”Private use is up to the discretion of the individual but private use in the home does not make it any more safe than use in a solarium,” he said.

”I would be very concerned about whether the machines are being properly maintained. If the machine is not maintained, the radiation output could become variable and it would be difficult for the individual to monitor that.”

In Victoria under-18s are banned from tanning salons and operators are forced to display health warnings or face $1 million fines.

Since the 2008 laws came in, the number of outlets has plummeted 67 per cent from 436 to 143 salons. Along with the NSW government’s ban in 2014, many in the industry are offloading sunbeds on sites such as eBay, Gumtree and Trading Post.

The former head of the Australian Solarium Association, Mark Konemann, has sold two machines on eBay in the past fortnight for $1000 each. The buyers planned to use the sunbeds at home. ”Some of these beds are worth $15,000 to $20,000 and I’ve seen some online being sold for $500 or less,” Mr Konemann said. ”This is very powerful equipment and these commercial machines can do some damage if you don’t follow the rules. You’re going to get idiots who will use them all day and burn themselves silly

”When people come into a salon they have forms to sign, there are warning signs and it’s controlled but at home there are no controls.”

Craig Sinclair, of Cancer Council Victoria, said it would be critical for governments to consider limiting the supply of sunbeds to the domestic market ”so that we don’t just shift the problem away from appropriately trained personnel supervising them to home use”.

But Mr Konemann said a ban would not deter people. ”Solarium people won’t go and get a spray tan. Most of them have used these machines for years. They know they get a good tan, they don’t get burnt and it’s convenient so they’ll be snapping up these machines online.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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