Summit County Health Dept. to regulate tanning beds
December 6, 2011
Any business with a tanning bed can expect a call from the Summit County Health Department as new regulations and fees go into effect. The push for more regulations follows four-year-old state law the health department has only recently discussed enforcing.
In 2007, the Utah Legislature passed a law requiring anyone under the age of 18 to have parental consent and that an ultraviolet radiation warning sign and educational literature be made available in tanning salons.
The Summit County Health Department first addressed enforcing the law at Monday’s board meeting. But when the subject finally did come up, board members were quick to voice concern.
"Generally, the consensus is that is not healthy to tan," said Summit County Health Department executive director, Rich Bullough. "It is well documented that exposure to sunlight, UV radiation, and in particular tanning beds, increases the risk for melanoma later in life."
Bullough was not alone.
"This is a step in the right direction," said Utah Health Department employee and Summit County Health Board member, Lynne Nilson. "I still think more can be done. I don’t think anyone under the age of 21 should be tanning, really no one should be using tanning beds."
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According to the EPA and CDC, Utah has the highest incident rate of melanoma cases in the United States. In Utah, Summit County has the highest rates of reported melanoma, an estimated 124 percent above the national average and 37 percent above the state average. For both men and women in the county, melanoma ranks in the top five cancer diagnoses according to the Utah Cancer Registry.
"We know the younger a person is, the more harmful the rays, whether it’s a tanning bed or sunburns from the sun," Nilson said. "That is going to increase their chances of skin cancer in the future. To keep young people away from tanning beds is vital, and I think Summit County can really be a leader here."
Tiara Brett, an employee of the salon Perfect Tan in Redstone, said it was pretty typical for government institutions to target tanning salons. Brett said the salon already follows a strict policy of requiring anyone under the age of 18 to have parental consent for the level of bed and the number of visits allowed.
"There is a questionnaire parents have to sign," Brett said. "It has questions like: ‘Are you aware of the effects of UV rays?’ and ‘Are you aware this increases your risk for skin cancer?’"
The UV warning sign would be something new Brett said, as would having pamphlets talking about melanoma and skin cancer.
Brett said the skin cancer issue is overblown by one side, and that the real risk of skin cancer comes from sunburns. Roughly 30 percent of the salon’s clientele comes from doctor prescribed visits she added.
"Doctor may say you need more Vitamin D," Brett said. "We see people for skin issues like emphysema or psoriasis, acne. We also see seasonal depression patients. A lot of our patients are sent here by doctors, but some people are still constantly attacking us."
Bullough said the regulations came after state pressure, and while melanoma is a concern, the health department is not about shutting businesses down.
Lorrie Niessen of 7Sundaze Salon in Park City said more fees were a nickel-and-dime tactic.
"We already get all these little taxes from Summit County. I don’t know how people are going to stay in business. It’s really bad from Summit County to do that to people who pay their taxes and licenses."
Bullough said he felt keeping up with state regulation was crucial.
"Enforcement sounds bad because it sounds punitive," Bullough said. "That’s not where we are. Our intent is not to put businesses out of business. It’s an important issue, and this is about education, about educating the parents of minors."
Bullough said county health departments are expecting state legislation that adds onto tanning beds regulations, and that he expects it to be introduced in the upcoming session in January.
"Our intent is to get this going so that if the law does change" to help adjust to the changes more smoothly, said Summit County environmental health scientist, Leslie Freeman. "It’s more of a baby step."