Salon sunbeds set four times above safety limit: Watchdogs found 70 per cent broke the rules to offer a quicker tan
Tanning salons are setting sunbeds dangerously high for instant resultsIn Newcastle, only 16 per cent of sunbeds complied with safety regulations'We are talking about skin cancer – not a bit of sunburn' an investigator said

Eleanor Harding


02:18 GMT, 30 March 2013



02:18 GMT, 30 March 2013

Tanning salons are routinely flouting regulations designed to protect customers against skin cancer, an investigation reveals.

Some are using sunbeds that emit rays four times above the legal limit of radiation.

Inspectors found more than 70 per cent of the sunbeds they tested were set above the limit, with compliance in one area standing at just 6 per cent.

Girl on sunbed

Dangerous: Many British salons are setting sunbeds too high to give their customers instant results

It is thought many salons set the beds at a higher level in a bid to guarantee their customers an instant tan.

In Britain, the legal limit for UV ray emissions is 0.3 watts per square metre – the equivalent of the midday sun in the southern Mediterranean.

Some of the sunbeds tested emitted up to 1.2 watts – a level which does not naturally occur anywhere on Earth. Experts warned that exposure to such emissions could multiply the risk of developing skin cancer.

The findings were uncovered by Trading Standards teams across the UK in a crackdown on dangerous practices.

Clare Forbes, an officer in West Yorkshire, said: ‘The failures we have found are quite shocking.

Tests have been carried out up and down the country and found really low levels of compliance.

If anyone has been to a strong sunbed they should consult a GP, a trading standards officer said

Risk: If anyone has been to a strong sunbed they should consult a GP, a trading standards officer said

‘I don’t think people realise the extent of the risk they are exposing themselves to.

‘We are talking about skin cancer – not a bit of sunburn. If anyone thinks they have been on a strong sunbed they should report it to us or consult their GP.’

The tests were carried out by inspectors wearing protective clothing while taking the readings with a radiation meter.

The probe was launched after complaints from customers and tip-offs from other tanning operators that some were flouting the rules so they could provide quicker tans.

Tests on scores of sunbeds across Essex, Suffolk, West Yorkshire and Newcastle showed a worrying number were emitting 1.2 watts – four times the limit.

The establishments causing most concern were dedicated tanning salons and operations linked to hairdressers and nail bars.

In Newcastle, only 16 per cent of the 60 sunbeds tested complied with the regulations.


Donna Ballantyne died after using sunbeds at an unsupervised coin-operated tanning salon in Glasgow

Skin cancer: Donna Ballantyne died after using sunbeds at an unsupervised coin-operated tanning salon in Glasgow

Donna Ballantyne died from skin cancer after using sunbeds from the age of 16.

The mother of three used coin-operated tanning booths for 20 minutes at a time, twice a week.

Although she stopped using them regularly when she got married at 22, by 30 she had developed skin cancer.

She died aged 39 after a nine-year fight against the disease, which saw her develop at least 19 tumours.

Speaking to the Mail in 2011, Mrs Ballantyne said that she was never warned how strong the UV light was.

She said: ‘The sunbeds were unmanned, which meant there was no one there to advise me how long to go on for or how powerful the tubes were.

I would insert my money into the machine and lie there for as long as I liked.

‘I often burnt my back and shoulders, but I thought that was the aim because the skin would later turn brown.’

The hotel manager, from Bothwell, Lanarkshire, said at the time: ‘If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn’t have spent even one second on a sunbed.’

In Essex, where 85 beds were tested and only 6 per cent complied with the limits, nine beds were emitting 1.2 watts.

A similar picture was emerging in West Yorkshire and Suffolk, where tests were being carried out this week. In Wakefield, 72 per cent of sunbeds failed to meet regulations, while in Bradford 80 per cent failed.

Gary Lipman, chairman of The Sunbed Association, said: ‘We have been blazing the trail for 0.3 compliance right from the outset, training and working with Trading Standards and Environmental Health offices throughout the UK.

‘The picture is changing daily but more needs to be done. Many local authorities aren’t testing compliance, and this must change.’

The legal limit across Europe is now 0.3 watts per square metre of tanning bed after it was reduced from 0.6 because of growing health concerns. A further reduction is on the cards because of fears that the current levels could still pose a skin cancer threat.