Sun tanneries have become a huge part of modern life, from swimming pools to fitness classes, thanks to their popularity among the youth.
But as the popularity of sun tannerie products increases, the tanning industry has struggled to maintain a high standard of safety.
The latest example of the industry’s poor safety record came to light last month when a Taiwanese company, TanTan, was found to have shipped the world’s most dangerous skin-tanning chemical to a US retailer.
This led to the recall of approximately 1,000 products that contained the banned chemical.
Sun tanners have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their products, but the industry has not been held accountable.
“We can’t blame the sun tanners for not being able to keep their promise,” says Peter Jardine, who works for the SunTanners Association, a trade group that represents sun tannery operators.
“Sun tanning is a great activity for people to do, but there are also many people who could be harmed from using them.”
Sun tannery workers are typically paid $8 to $10 per hour and are expected to wash and dry their bodies in a controlled environment.
But the safety record of sun tanners has long been questioned.
A 2009 study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that only 6% of sun-tanner workers have passed their first health screening, and more than half of them had only completed a small amount of exposure testing.
“It’s really shocking to think about how little we’re actually doing,” says Jardina.
The industry has responded by creating more stringent regulations that have been criticized by many experts.
“The sun tan-maker has been caught up in the regulations, and the sun-tanners are paying the price,” says Michael C. Johnson, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University at Albany.
“There is a lot of confusion out there about what constitutes a safe tanning session.
We’ve got a lot to learn from this.”
The FDA has taken steps to address the problem.
In July, the agency issued guidance requiring sun- tanner-owned tanning businesses to obtain health certification before using any of the chemicals that were found in the tanner products.
But safety regulations are still not uniform.
In 2017, the FDA announced it was considering a new rule that would require tannery facilities to get their facilities to pass safety tests for all chemicals they use, including benzoyl peroxide.
The FDA also has started a pilot program that will require tanner facilities to test products for the dangerous chemical and to report any results to the agency.
The Sun Tanners Association believes the agency should adopt a similar rule for tanning salons, where tanning can often take place.
“They are using chemicals to make money, and they need to be held accountable,” says Johnson.
“If you have a saloon where you have no safety oversight, then you have an enormous risk of causing harm to customers.”