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  • Sunbed Industry Exposed

    Doctor fired up over dangers of tanning beds

    The Record - July 6, 2002

    Emily Worts

    The red Ergoline Turbo with a disco light on its top and the stand-up Extreme Vertical with nylon straps to hold on to are just two of the 12 beds at the Sun Magic Tanning Spa on Westmount Road East in Kitchener.

    With 200-watt reflector lamps and 54 bulbs, the machines look more like rides at Paramount Canada's Wonderland. the maximum time spent in the Extreme Vertical is eight minutes, but the Turbo 600 classic with high-pressure facial and shoulder lamps requires 12 minutes to give you a good base tan, customer service representative Vanessa Smith said.

    Most salons say getting a base tan is one of the health benefits of tanning beds because it prepares the skin for additional exposure.

    However, Region of Waterloo Public Health says any change of skin colour is a sign of permanent skin damaage. Bronzing the skin through artificial tanning may provide a sun protection factor of three, a health department brochure says, but the minimum protection people should have before they go out into the sun is 15.

    Smith disagrees. "The more tan you get, it helps with sun protection outside because your skin is getting thicker"

    Dermatologist Terry Polevoy, who runs the Acne Care Clinic in Kitchener, began a crusade to educate the public and his patients about skin cancer and artificial tanning 11 years ago.

    On Monday night, he will make a 10-minute presentation to Waterloo council decrying the lack of controls locally and provincially over the sun-bed industry, its staff and the advertising of ultra-violet devices.

    He will also describe his concern about artificial tanning being readily available to teenagers.

    Polevoy's crusade stems from personal experience, including the death of his spouse to skin cancer in 1993.

    He also had a 15-year-old patient who sufferred a second-degree burn in 10 or 15 minutes of using a sun lamp her mother bought at a garage sale. "She looked like a lobster," Polevoy said.

    "I'm concerned about bad information and self-regulation. There's no penalty for letting underage children in (to tanning salons)."

    Polevoy said there is no doubt artificial tanning is directly linked to melanoma. Yet "we are creating a generation of young people that crave artificial tanning."

    Janet Stasso, 27, of Kitchener, goes to Sun Magic twice a week for sessions with the "Super", a mid-powered bed like the Extreme Vertical.

    Stasso, who is pregnant, said artificial tanning clears up her acne. "You look better, it clears up your skin and makes all the difference in the world."

    Amy Finch, 18, of Kitchener, said she only tans artificially and never sunbathes outdoors. "It's peaceful. If you're stressed out, you can come here and relax."

    One pamphlet picked up at Sun Magic reads, "The sun is your source of life so live your life." The image is of a bronzed woman with a bornzed, blond toddler on her shoulders.

    "They used to advertise cigarettes like this. It's hazardous to your health," Polevoy said.

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