Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 15:00 UK

Girl, 10, burned at tanning salon


Kelly Thompson, 10, describes the burns she received at an unmanned tanning salon

A 10-year-old girl has suffered burns over 70% of her body after spending 16 minutes on an unsupervised sun bed.

Kelly Thompson had to be treated overnight at a burns unit in Swansea and her mother wants an investigation.

"The doctors told me if she had stayed on the bed two minutes longer, she may have needed skin grafts," her mother Sharon Hannaford, of Port Talbot, said.

A spokesperson for the Electrik Avenue tanning centre said they were due to meet council health officials.

The incident happened over the Easter holidays and Ms Hannaford has called for the salon to be closed down.

Kelly Thompson
Kelly paid 8 to use the sunbed at the salon

She said she had given Kelly money for a visit to the fair with an older cousin.

"When they got there the funfair was closed so they went into town and decided to use the tanning centre.

"Kelly put £8 into the machine which gave her 16 minutes on the sun bed.

"She was under-age but there was no staff there to stop her from using it.

"And there was no-one to give advice on using these potentially dangerous machines."

"She had burns over 70% of her body and was off school for a week."

A sign on the door at the Electrik Avenue tanning centre reads: "Strictly over 16s only."

Neath Port Talbot council confirmed it was investigating the incident.

The case emerged as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) changed its advice for operators of sun beds in Wales and England.

Eletrik Avenue salon
The tanning salon said it would meet council officials on Friday

It recommended that people under 18 should not use sun beds, and that all coin-operated salons should be supervised by trained staff.

The HSE said the new guidance would bring it into line with the latest World Health Organisation advice.

Giles Denham, the policy director at the HSE, said: "We understand that some people may want to use sun beds. Our guidance is designed to ensure they have the information to minimise the associated risks.

"That's why we recommend that owners ensure their salons are staffed all the time, even if they are coin-operated, and that UV tanning equipment is not used by people under 18."

Bill Dickson, director of the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery at Morriston Hospital, where Kelly was treated, said burns from overusing sun beds could be a danger.

"One of the worries is the exposure to ultra-violet rays and the links to developing malignant melanoma. Cases of malignant melanoma have shown to be increasing in younger people," he said.

"The majority of burns we see from sun beds are superficial but can be very painful. It might be that we would need to treat the skin with dressings but there could be a very real danger of long-term scarring depending on the extent of the burn."

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists said: "This is yet another case that illustrates why compulsory regulation of the sun bed industry is long overdue.

"Unmanned, coin-operated sun beds need to be banned, as children of any age can use them, and there is no limit to the amount of time you can spend on such devices. This can lead to serious health problems, including skin cancer."

Kathy Banks of the Sunbed Association said unstaffed salons only made up about 150 of the 6,000 tanning centres in the UK.

"Certainly we do not allow unstaffed tanning salons into membership, we don't support them and we also support any campaign to take action against them and force them to be closed down or force them to be staffed," she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Julie Barratt, director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said it was clear allowing the industry to self-regulate was not working.

"Unmanned sun-tanning salons are a particular problem as they are subject to no controls at all.

"The only way we can protect young people from this sort of self-inflicted damage is to control the use of sun tanning faculties by legislation."

In February, a 14-year-old girl was burned after spending 19 minutes on a sun bed at an unstaffed salon in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan.

Kirsty McRae was put on a drip and given oxygen in hospital after receiving first degree burns, the lowest level of skin burn.

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