A PURGE by trading standards officers on tanning salons in West Yorkshire has revealed as many as eight out of 10 are dangerously flouting regulations to protect customers from skin cancer.
The safe wattage for tanning equipment was set by a leading dermatologist years ago as the equivalent of the midday sun in the southern Mediterranean.
In Britain, that is 0.3 watts per square metre of tanning bed, but experts have warned their tests have shown readings for some sunbeds were far in excess of permitted levels, up to 1.2 watts.
Claire Forbes, principal officer for the safety team at West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “This level of UV radiation does not naturally occur anywhere on the earth’s surface.”
A clampdown is under way in West Yorkshire after complaints from customers that tanning beds had been too hot. There have also been warnings from responsible operators that some salons were flouting the rules, so they could provide “instant tans”.
Tests have been carried out by officers wearing specialist suits and head protection to take readings with a radiation meter.
Similar efforts have also been under way in other parts of the UK, targeting tanning salons, hairdressers and beauty salons as well as gyms, which were found to have higher levels of compliance.
In Wakefield, of seven salons checked, only two were operating within the law. In Bradford, five were visited and only one was found to be compliant.
Nearly 20 sun beds were given radiation checks. In Wakefield, 72 per cent failed and in Bradford 80 per cent.
Officials fear many tanning businesses do not have the expert knowledge to configure their equipment properly.
Only a limited number of sunbeds are equipped with controls to set the power output. Most depend on salon owners fitting the correct number of tubes and ordering ones that are the right strength.
Ms Forbes says a typical customer will book a three to six minute session, while others who imagine they have “good skins” may go under for nine minutes.
“Generally, it is whoever is behind the counter who dispenses the advice – and there is no requirement for them to be qualified,” she added.
In Newcastle, only 16 per cent of the 60 sunbeds tested complied with regulations, while in Essex, only six per cent met the limits, and nine beds were found to be emitting 1.2 watts.