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Brussels, 12 February 2010

Consumers: 1 in 7 Sunbeds in breach of UV radiation safety limits

Consumers should be aware of the potential risks associated with using sunbeds according to the results of a market surveillance check of sunbeds and sunbed services, published today by the European Commission. Market surveillance authorities in 10 Member States inspected more than 500 sunbeds at over 300 locations (mostly tanning salons and wellness centres) between September 2008 and September 2009, and found three main problems: UV radiation limits for sunbeds were violated in one in seven sunbeds made available at tanning services; consumer guidance, including on the hazards of UV radiation or prohibiting their use by under 18s was not provided; there were insufficient warnings on the sunbeds themselves (e.g. that UV radiation may cause injury). Authorities are intensifying their work to ensure compliance with all relevant safety legislation and the results of the 2008/2009 check will feed into a follow up project launched today by authorities in 12 Member States to train more inspectors and improve information to consumers. Authorities are also working more with the sunbed industry, which is itself developing training material for service providers such as tanning studios.

John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy 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. 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"

Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship said: “Sunbeds need to be safe, harmless to health and carrying clear instructions for users. I call upon market surveillance authorities of Member States to make full use of the new EU market surveillance framework, in place since January 2010. 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.”

The problem:

There is evidence from Member States' market surveillance exercises which indicate a number of problems: UV radiation levels do not always respect the relevant safety limits 1 , consumers using sunbeds in tanning studios are not always sufficiently informed of the hazards involved, such as getting burned or the long term risk of skin cancer, and under 18s are not always denied use of this service as they should be. Member State authorities are aware that more needs to be done to bring such services into line with the relevant safety standards.

The project:

The joint project was carried out by market surveillance authorities in 10 Member States 2 (led by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority), and concentrated on the safety information and advice provided to consumers, the labelling of the sunbeds, the availability of eye protection and the UV –radiation emitted by the sunbeds.

The safety objectives of the project:

  • To raise the market surveillance profile in the market where these products are used and thereby improve enforcement of the legislation on sunbeds;

  • To increase experience and co-operation with industry in the market surveillance of such products;

  • To share the information identifying such harmful products with all Member States so that such products can be used on the market in full compliance with safety rules.

The recommendations:

In order to ensure that the highest possible safety standards are maintained in the EU, the project participants recommend: to continue to enforce the rules by market surveillance authorities including more enforcement at the source of entry onto the market; to further align the interpretation of the legal requirements, to better inform consumers about the hazards of tanning and how to avoid them; to increase the number of UV radiation checks for a more representative measure of non-compliance ( expected to be higher with more testing).

Tips for consumers:

Certain basic precautions can be taken by consumers. They should seek and follow the guidance information on the tanning scheme suitable for their skin type as well as on the appropriate duration. They should always use eye protection. It is recommended that under 18s should not use sunbeds.

What next:

The European Commission is co-financing a follow up joint project, launched by Member States today, to: support industry which is keen to develop training material and code of good conduct for tanning studios and information, especially to young consumers; and to discuss with Member States the application of the product safety rules in the interest of consumer safety. The outcome of this project should be available at the end of 2011.

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1 :

Sunbeds have to comply with the Low Voltage Directive and the relevant safety requirements of European Standard EN 60335.

2 :

Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland.

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