Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 17:37 UK

Sunbeds 'are not safe' MSPs told

Politicians are hearing evidence about the safety of sunbeds

The public is not protected when it comes to sunbeds, MSPs have been told.

Holyrood's health committee is considering the regulation of the tanning machines as part of a public health bill going through parliament.

Politicians heard operators can modify sunbeds to go over accepted safety levels without committing any offence.

But parlour operators said there was no evidence of sunbeds being abused and that parlours were not responsible for an increase in skin cancer.

Labour's Richard Simpson said research showed that four out of five sunbed parlours fell short of current safety guidelines.

He said that their ultraviolet levels exceeded the maximum British standard and asked how environmental health officers were protecting users from tanning parlours which exceeded the British national standard.

There's no protection for the public in this matter and that's very serious
Ross Finnie MSP
Liberal Democrat MSP

Alastair Shaw, of the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland, said the issue was "problematic" and that action could not be taken until a user suffered an injury, for example from burns.

He said that sunbeds could be modified with more powerful tubes which take them above British standard levels.

Liberal Democrat Ross Finnie demanded clarification that this would not be against the law even where an operator "wilfully changes" the standard.

After quizzing the officer, Mr Finnie said: "It isn't worth a row of beans."

He added: "There's no protection for the public in this matter and that's very serious."

Foreign holidays

The committee was also taking evidence from Ron Culley, of local government body Cosla, as well as Lene Priess of the Consol Suncenter and Kathy Banks, chief executive of the Sunbed Association.

Labour MSPs have lodged a series of amendments to the public health bill, which would see a ban on unstaffed premises with coin operated machines and under-18s using sunbeds, as well as a national licensing scheme.

But Lene Priess, director of the Consol Suncenter, which operates more than 20 unstaffed premises said there was a greater risk of children developing cancer on a foreign holiday.

I think saying that sunbeds are killing people is an overstatement
Lene Priess
Director of the Consol Suncenter

"As a major long-standing operator, we have no evidence of under-16s or children using or abusing our sunbeds or even wanting to.

"The real risk to young people is holidaying abroad and over-exposing their skin over a short period of time."

She added that CCTV monitoring of premises indicated that no children were using them, as does market research the firm has carried out among youngsters.

The firm's average session time was nine to 10 minutes, she added.

Labour's Helen Eadie, who backs a national licensing scheme, said international research had indicated a relationship between sunbeds and cancer.

But this was rejected by Ms Priess: "I think saying that sunbeds are killing people is an overstatement."

She claimed the major factors in developing a malignant melanoma stemmed from family history and skin type.

The British Medical Association said sunbed users were 2.5 times more likely to develop skin cancer and that it favoured a licensing system for suntan parlours.

Sunbed plans lodged with Holyrood
30 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Sunbed bill 'backed by most MSPs'
27 Dec 06 |  Scotland
Tanning salon 'regulation' calls
16 Oct 06 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Boys burned on unmanned sunbeds
27 Aug 04 |  Scotland

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