Sunbeds – Consumer NZ and Cancer Society call for ban

Consumer NZ and the Cancer Society are calling for an outright ban on commercial sunbeds. Although both organisations support amendments to the Health (Protection) Amendment Bill banning the provision of sunbed services to under-18s, they argue the ban does not go far enough.

Consumer has been surveying sunbed businesses for over a decade and found many operators ignoring – or unaware of – the safety guidelines of the voluntary standard (AS/NZ 2635:2008 Solaria for cosmetic purposes). This standard was revised in 2008 following concerns from health groups and the community about the increased risks to users of sun-tanning appliances. It:

  • recommends that the maximum UV intensity for sunbeds is cut by 40%
  • restricts the use of sunbeds to people aged 18 and over
  • requests all operators to warn clients that there is evidence of increased risk of radiation from tanning units contributing to skin cancer and photo-ageing
  • recommends operators take greater responsibility to ensure solaria use is controlled – by managing tanning sessions according to the user’s skin type and the number of prior sessions the user has had.

Rest of the population still at risk

New Zealand has the highest skin cancer rate in the world, yet over 90% of skin cancers are preventable. The proposed amendments to the Health (Protection) Amendment Bill will protect under-18s, but the rest of the population will still be at risk from using sunbeds.

In July 2009, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified tanning devices as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ and in the highest cancer risk category, alongside substances such as tobacco, asbestos, and arsenic.

Brazil and most states in Australia have introduced bans on commercial solariums in an attempt to reduce rates of skin cancer. Consumer and the Cancer Society think New Zealand should follow suit.

Read Consumer NZ’s sunbed survey results.

Summarised from a Consumer NZ and Cancer Society media release.

Buy AS/NZS 2635:2008

Published in consumer and occupational safety.