STRUGGLING solarium operators are flooding online trading sites with unwanted sunbeds, prompting calls for a government buyback of the machines in a bid to prevent dangerous in-home tanning.
The powerful units are being sold for as little as $200 as the industry faces collapse due to tough regulations restricting the use of solariums and growing public awareness of the cancer-causing risk of the machines.
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 that a rise in the popularity of in-home sunbeds will lead to more cases of skin cancer as people tan without supervision.
In Victoria, people aged under 18 are banned from tanning salons and operators must display health warnings or face fines of up to $1 million.
Since the 2008 laws came in, the number of outlets offering the service has plummeted by 67 per cent from 436 to 143 salons.
And with the New South Wales government recently announcing plans for a total ban on solariums by the end of 2014, many in the industry are offloading sunbeds on sites such as eBay, Gumtree and Trading Post.
Professor of public health at the University of Sydney Simon Chapman warns tanning at home is dangerous. ”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. They’re completely outside the reach of any regulation or inspection, and that’s a real problem.
”It would be a public service for [state] governments to just buy them at that low market price and destroy them. Another option would be to outlaw the on-selling of them.”
The former head of the Australian Solarium Association, Mark Konemann, sold two machines on eBay in the past fortnight for $1000 each. The buyers planned to use them 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. 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,” Mr Konemann says. ”When people come into a salon, they have forms to sign, there are warning signs and it’s controlled.”
The director of the education unit at Cancer Council Victoria, Craig Sinclair, says tanning salons have trained staff who can assess skin-types and restrict time on the sunbeds.
He warns people against buying a solarium to use at home, and predicts it is only a matter of time until an outright ban on tanning salons is put into place in Victoria.
”It will be critical for governments to consider limiting the supply of these sunbeds to the domestic market.”
Mary Tabban, of Hair & Beauty Connection in Richmond, has had four inquiries from prospective buyers for her salon’s tanning bed, which she is selling online through Gumtree for $300, despite paying more than $15,000 for it five years ago.
She says she no longer promotes use of the machine, and demand for the service has fallen greatly in the past three years as clients instead opted for safer treatments, such as spray tans. At its peak, about 20 clients used the bed each week; now, only five do. ”I imagine more businesses will start selling their sunbeds because beauty salons don’t want to promote the use of such damaging machines,” she says, adding that she would not advise anyone to use a sunbed at home.
Mr Konemann says he has sold his sunbeds to people who knew how to tan safely, and a solarium ban would not deter people from using them. ”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.”
In a statement, Victorian Health Minister David Davis says the issue of an outright ban on solariums is best considered at a national level and he will discuss it at the next meeting of state and federal health ministers.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.