Schenectady County

Tanning providers face new regulations

Several businesses that offer tanning services already inform customers of the potential risks invol

Several businesses that offer tanning services already inform customers of the potential risks involved in exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Many tanning machines are already tied to a timer that won’t allow users to boost their exposure beyond safe limits, and business owners said Wednesday they make sure the machines are cleaned after each use.

What they don’t currently do is pay $30 every other year for a permit to operate the machines and pay $50 per machine every other year to have a government official inspect them.

That is likely to change in 2009.

The state Health Department next year plans to begin regulating operations that provide tanning services, adding several requirements in an effort to make sure people are aware of the potential risks of tanning and to make sure the machines are clean and free of defects.

The new program will entail licensing and inspecting commercial tanning facilities “with the intent of increasing consumer knowledge of the hazards of ultraviolet tanning and minimizing user injuries,” according to the department’s proposed rule.

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can damage the skin and is believed to cause cancer.

The provision regarding machinery itself may not apply to facilities that have updated equipment, but some older machines may not include timers or have components that can be accessed by users, said Mike Cambridge, director of the state Health Department’s Bureau of Community Environmental Health and Food Protection.

“Basically, we want the operator of the tanning facility to have control over the timer,” Cambridge said.

It’s possible people going in to tan the first time of the season could want to boost their initial time to 20 minutes rather than sticking with the suggested eight-minute exposure, and “that can be dangerous,” Cambridge said.

Facilities seeking a permit will undergo an inspection in which the inspector will check for visible signs of cracks or wear that could affect the user.

The inspector will also check to make sure the cleaning products being used to sanitize the machines are made for such work and not being diluted, Cambridge said.

Some tanning operators on Wednesday said they already comply with many of the new provisions, except for paying for a permit and inspections.

Planet Fitness Regional Manager Michael Hamilton said there are six outlets in the region with seven tanning machines in each.

Users all sign a form accepting responsibility for using them, and users are unable to boost their time under the lights.

“You don’t set them from inside the rooms, we set it here,” Hamilton said.

The machines themselves have an indicator letting owners know when to change the bulbs after 600 hours of use, he said.

But with six Planet Fitness facilities each offering seven machines, the cost of the new regulation will amount to $2,280 there alone.

“I think for some small businesses, sure, any other cost like that will be burdensome. Certainly, in certain places, that’s all they do is tanning. That’s going to be costly,” Hamilton said.

Tanning booths are cleaned regularly at Glenville Health & Fitness Center, and the machines have timers as well, said Tim Valachovic who, with his wife Cheryl, owns and operates the center.

Another provision of the new regulation requires that facilities provide eye protection for clients free of charge. Valachovic said that’s already standard procedure.

“The skin you have over the top of your eyes isn’t that thick. You want to protect your eyes as much as you can,” Valachovic said.

At Glenville Health & Fitness, education is seen as a standard first step prior to tanning, Valachovic said.

“That way they know what they’re getting into,” Valachovic said.

For Valachovic, the biggest impact of the new regulation will be cost.

“That seems a little excessive, for $50 a machine. Once they make an inspection, why would it change? It is expensive, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

The new rule spells out several steps tanning facilities will have to comply with.

Devices must have an adequate label depicting how the device is operated, and timers for the tanning machines have to be maintained and accurate.

Tanning equipment, including beds, booth pillows and reusable eye wear, have to be sanitized.

The new rule will also come with additional reporting.

Currently, children under 14 are prohibited from using tanning machines. Those aged 14 to 18 need a parental consent form.

Next year, facilities will need to have a form signed by every user confirming they’ve read the state’s health warnings about tanning, agreeing to the use of eye protection and agreeing not to exceed maximum exposure times.

The statement also has a paragraph warning that certain medications, cosmetics and foods may increase sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation.

The new rule will require that any injuries caused by tanning machines be reported to the official that provided the permit, typically a designee of the municipal health department.

Ultraviolet lamps also have to be shielded with an acrylic cover for protecting patrons from touching or breaking the lamps, and handrails or floor markings have to be developed to show users how close they can safely get to the lamps.

Those are already standard features for modern machines.

Records have to be kept for two years detailing each visit by each user, including the date and duration of exposure to the ultraviolet radiation.

Public comment on the new regulations is being accepted until mid-November. After review, barring any major objections or changes, the regulations will be enacted into law, probably in 2009. They will take effect 60 days later.

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