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  • Sunbeds


    Profitable Industry

    or a

    Health Hazard


    Our Children


    Terry Polevoy, MD

    July 8, 2002

    Waterloo City Council

    International Skin Cancer Awareness Network

    938 King Street West

    Kitchener, Ontario

    N2G 1G4


    519-725-4953 fax


    Obvious problems are sometimes right under your nose, but no one cares

    1. There are no controls either locally or Provincially over the sunbed industry, its sales people, its operators, or the advertising of U.V. devices. They are promoted in ways that ignore the hazards.

    2. There are zero effective controls over the manufacture and sale of the devices. You plug them in, they don't blow up, that's all Health Canada cares about..

    3. Health Canada is totally lax in its ability to demand control over the health claims made by sunbed promoters. They just don't care to do anything about it. It's not high on their priority list. As far as I know, there has never been a challenge to advertising claims that has ever reached anyone in Health Canada who would investigate.

    4. There is no control over sale of new or used beds and tanning lamps. The promoters say anything they want. The industry is backed by corporations that see only profits, not the safety of their devices. Used devices can be bought in the Penny Saver, on the Internet, and at garage sales.

    5. Most of the recent advertising campaigns in our region is controlled by one large player, namely Sun Magic. Health Clubs almost always have a sunbed, and one of this country's largest players is David Patchell-Evans owned chain of Good Life Clubs. They recently replaced a chiropractor at the Waterloo location with another room for sunbeds.

    6. Why even Gina's school of esthetics teaches how to fry as you dry your nails.

    7. Problems with sunbeds and sunlamps:.

    • Grade 8 students handed coupons to get tanned for graduation
    • Patients with serious skin problems, on medication never asked about health
    • Under age workers invite their friend in to tan, with little or no training by staff
    • Clubs give bonuses to their employees if they entice clients to use tanning beds
    • Viral and bacterial infections increased, immunity suppressed
    • Excessive wrinkling and aging of skin
    • Increase in rates of skin cancer, some of them can be fatal
    • Promotions by sunbed operators that it's healthy to tan
    • No standardization for inspecting or replacing the bulbs
    • No routine inspections by Health Department, or Health Canada

    8. The number of dedicated sunbed parlors is increasing astronomically. I counted 25 operators alone in the recent phone book in Kitchener and Waterloo alone. This does not count the so-called fitness clubs, hairdressers, etc.

    9. The Health Department has no idea of how many beds there are, and has no requirements for inspection. There is no reporting system in case doctors, clinics, or emergency rooms treat patients who have been injured. There no long term follow-up system in place anywhere in the Province, or across Canada to track hazards of sunbed use.

    10. Personal experiences

    • Mother bought used sunlamp and burned her teenage daughter's face. After warning about this, the daughter decided to go tanning even while on medication for acne. Tanning parlor attendant didn't ask her, or she didn't disclose the fact that she was on medication
    • 14 year old student and her 13 year old girl-friend were driven to tanning salon on the advice of her father to get tanned so she would look good in her graduation dress. This has happened more than once.
    • Second degree burns of face and neck after young mother, age 16, decided to go tanning after she delivered baby, and while on sun-sensitizing meds.
    • Adult psychiatric patient on 5 meds goes tanning every day for 6 months without ever being asked about her condition
    • Tanorexia is a psychiatric disease which is a form of obsessive-compulsive behaviour and it is rampant in those who regularly tan.
    • Family of five children, the youngest age 8 was taken to tanning salon
    • Melanoma removed from adult who previously had melanoma, and she still goes tanning 2-3 times per week
    • Sun Magic wanted to donate money to new Cancer Centre last June
    • Large Sun Magic billboard across parking lot from funeral home on King Street
    • Sun Magic ad in Conestoga Mall next to billboard for Make a Wish Foundation

    11. Industry lobbyists cite a handful of studies that artificial tanning actually reduces some forms of cancer. They donate money to a foundation in Boston area and then the hired gun physician parades around the world at major sunbed conventions to support the industry.

    12. I started a web site many years ago because I wanted the world to know that there are definite risks to artificial tanning, and for that matter regular tanning. In 1993, I lost a loved one to Melanoma. She wasn't the only one to die in Kitchener that year. In fact, at age 43, she was the oldest one to die. The other two people were in their 30s.

    13. We spend millions of dollars to convince people that smoking is bad, that drinking and driving is a really killer. We spend almost nothing to educate the public about the dangers of artificial tanning.

    Proposal to regulate sunbed operators, monitor sunbed injuries and educate the public

    1. I hereby request that the City of Waterloo initiate a pilot study to monitor the practices of local facilities that offer tanning in any form. That a minimum age of 19 be required for staff, and that the age of use of sunbed be increased to 19 as well. I would ask that this be made Region-wide.

    2. The Medical Officer of Health and her staff have published a brochure about the dangers of artificial tanning. I request that every facility that offers tanning make this brochure available before anyone uses their beds.

    3. A Provincial reporting agency be set up so that people who are injured by sunbeds will have their case history reviewed, and an inspection of the facility where those injuries occurred be made by local members of the environmental health department. Statistics of these injuries should be made public and salons or clubs who have allowed injuries to occur be rated, and that those statistics be posted in plain view.

    4. Examinations be mandatory on a Province wide basis for anyone who owns a sunbed operation. These examinations must be updated as the industry changes. It does no good to trust the industry to self-police themselves. There are no standards, and their codes of ethics are totally worthless as far as I am concerned.

    5. The resale of UV beds and devices be banned totally.

    6. Fines should be imposed on any operator who violates the age restrictions, or who fails to comply with other guidelines established.

    7. A Province wide registration of all sunbeds, serial numbers, age at purchase, etc. be made, and that inspections of these beds be carried out by local health department.

    8. Annual license fees for each sunbed be established to defray the cost of inspections and educational programs.

    9. Underage smoking and drinking is not allowed, and underage tanning, even with the parent's permission should be condemned. Anyone who exposes their small children to hazardous effects of artificial tanning are in my opinion guilty of child endangerment.

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