Atmospheric physicist Dr Richard McKenzie says tests on several tanning machines found that overall they were emitting UV radiation at about the same level as what individuals would be exposed to in the middle of a bright New Zealand summer’s day.
However, for some wavelengths in the UV-A band, the levels were considerably higher, Dr McKenzie, of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said. UV-A radiation is known to penetrate more deeply into the skin.
“It’s a precautionary message. You should be aware when you use a sunbed that you are exposing your skin to some wavelengths of radiation that are several times higher – maybe five times higher – than natural sunlight.”
The health risks of these particular wavelengths were not known but the International Agency for Research on Cancer last year reclassified UV radiation as a definite cause of cancer. This is the highest classification and ranks UV radiation alongside asbestos and tobacco.
The NZ Cancer Society has long been pushing, without success, for the Government to introduce regulations to control the use of sun beds. Current solarium standards are voluntary which means, as a consumer, there is no certainty over how much UV radiation one is being exposed to. Countries such as Australia, Germany and the UK have already banned under 18s from using sun beds.