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One in seven sun beds breach UV radiation safety limits
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12/02/2010 00:00:00

A market surveillance check on sunbeds at tanning studios and fitness centres operating in ten EU member states has exposed that one in seven tested exceeded UV radiation limits, the European Commission announced today.

The survey also revealed a lack of consumer guidance on the hazards of UV radiation, and a ban on use for under 18s was not always respected.

EU health and consumer policy Commission John Dalli said:

"I am concerned that a high percentage of sunbeds and sunbed services were found not to respect safety rules. This is an important health concern since the incidence of skin cancer is doubling every 15-20 years. 

He added: "Competent surveillance authorities in the member states must ensure that these appliances are safe. I welcome the readiness of industry to do their part in raising the level of compliance and therefore safety in relation to their products"

Authorities are also working with the sunbed industry, which is itself developing training material for service providers such as tanning studios.

Industry Commissioner Vice-President Antonio Tajani added: “I look forward to co-operating with member states on joint actions on the safe use of sunbeds.  I believe this will strengthen consumers' trust, which is in the interest of both industry and Europeans.”

More than 500 sunbeds at over 300 locations were checked by market surveillance authorities in Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands and Poland, between September 2008 and September 2009.

    What next

    The results of the 2008/2009 check will feed into a follow-up project launched today which will involve the UK and eleven other member states (Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Norway, Portugal and the Netherlands).

    Financed by the European Commission, this second phase will entail training more inspectors, more measurement checks on sunbeds and improving information given to consumers, especially young consumers, on the possible risks of sunbed use.

    The outcome of this project should be available at the end of 2011.

    Best practice

    Tanning salons should:

    • provide consumers with sufficient information and advice about the tanning scheme suitable for their skin type;
    • refuse the use of sunbeds to under 18s and give clear information about the hazards of UV radiation;
    • hold interviews with new customers and ensure that the information and advice provided is tailored to each consumer;
    • insist on the use of eye protection,
    • aim to register intakes and tanning programs for customers.
    • sunbeds must carry warnings and the UV radiation emitted should be restricted to 0.3 watts per square metre.

    What are the UV radiation emission limits for sunbeds?

    The limit for effective irradiance of 0.3 W/m2 (Watt per square metre) was recommended by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) in its opinion  on the biological effects of ultraviolet radiation on health with particular reference to sunbeds for cosmetic purposes. This limit was subsequently added to the European standard relevant for sunbeds, EN 60335-2-27.

    Which rules govern the safety of sunbeds and sunbed services?

    With respect to the safety of sunbeds there is a combination of rules which are as follows:

    The European safety framework covering sunbeds is based on the Low Voltage Directive (LVD)[1] and European Standard EN 60335-2-27[2], Regulation 765/2008/EC[3] and the General Product Safety Directive[4].

    In accordance with the provisions of the Low Voltage Directive, products (when placed on the EU market) shall be manufactured in accordance with good engineering practice in safety matters.  European harmonised standards (which are voluntary), provide a presumption of conformity with the essential safety requirements of LVD. Recently, EN 60335-2-27:2003, which is the European standard applicable to sunbeds, was amended by the European standardisation body Cenelec, following a mandate issued by the Commission. This amended standard is applicable as of 1 April 2009 and imposes the limits for UV radiation (see below).

    Under the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD), market surveillance officers are allowed to check the safety of sunbeds (according to the revised standard) used in tanning studios for those sunbeds operated directly by the consumer. The GPSD also allows Member States to take measures against products posing a serious risk for the health and safety of consumers.

    Furthermore, with the coming into force of Regulation 765/2008/EC on 1 January 2010, Member States must take measures against non-complying or dangerous sunbeds, regardlessofwhether they are operated by consumers or by a service provider.

    Member States are also obliged to notify the Commission, via the RAPEX system when they take measures against products found to be posing a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers.

    There are no EU level rules which govern the safety of sunbed services.

    Are the full health effects of UV radiation tanning devices known?

    The Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) has noted that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) tanning devices were not in widespread use before the 1990s and the full health effects of their use are not yet known. It will take several years before the real picture of the role of UVR tanning devices in inducing skin cancer becomes fully apparent. This is due to the long induction period of the cancer.

    The SCCP is of the opinion that the use of UVR tanning devices to achieve and maintain cosmetic tanning, whether by UVB and/or UVA radiation, is likely to increase the risk of malignant melanoma of the skin and possibly ocular melanoma. People with known risk factors for skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma, should be advised not to use UVR tanning devices. Specifically, these are:

    - skin phototypes I and II and the presence of freckles

    - atypical and/or multiple moles

    - family history of melanoma

    Finally, the SCCP notes that the risk of melanoma seems to be particularly high when using sunbeds at a young age. Thus UVR tanning devices should not be used by individuals under the age of 18 years.

    Further background information

    Q&A on sunbed safety:

    [1] Directive 2006/95/EC, OJEU L374, 27.12.2006, p. 10

    [2] EN 60335-2-27: Household and similar electrical appliances – Safety Part 2-27: Particular requirements for appliances for skin exposure to ultraviolet and infrared radiation

    [3] Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products, OJ L218, 13.8.2008, p.30.

    [4] Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on general product safety OJ L 11, 15.1.2002, p. 4.

    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.

    Last update: 30/10/2010  |Top