Investigator Exclusive: Inspectors crack down on unsafe tanning facilities

2:32 PM, Feb 22, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- A Channel 3 News investigation found that risk can be even greater, depending on where you tan.

Ohio is among the top three states which have the highest number of tanning beds. Inspectors from the Ohio Board of Cosmetology try to examine each tanning bed and facility once a year, but they admit, it doesn't always happen.

The state has only eight inspectors to examine 13,251 tanning beds and salons.

Inspectors issue several hundred tanning violations a year. The violations include not having a certified operator, cracked bulb shields, skin-typing not performed, exposure records not maintained, and towels being reused without being washed. 

Last September, the state cited Summer Sun Tanning in Chardon for reusing towels. "They're just wiping bacteria all over the place," inspector Joan Lewis said. An employee at the facility says all violations have been corrected.

At Heavenly Tan in Mayfield Heights, an 18- year-old employee said she was certified to show cusotmers how to tan safely, but she said she couldn't remember the different skin types.

The state says identifying skin types is important so that a customer isn't overposed to UV rays. "Oh, my certification was so long ago. I forgot all that, " she told the Investigator Tom Meyer.

Lewis said that's unacceptable and said the employee should get re-certified.

State records show customers have complained about unsanitary conditions at tanning salons and conditions that they say have led to fungal infections.

They have also complained about dogs running loose in tanning salons.

Elaine Novak, of Avon Lake, said she called the state because a tanning facility allowed her 17-year-old daughter to tan indoors without her permission.

In Ohio, the state requires that anyone under 18 must have the parents consent before using a tanning bed. "The parents have to be there when they sign the permission slip," Novak said.

Inspectors are especially concerned about safety violations and for good reason. Studies show that repeat visits to tanning beds can lead to skin cancer and premature aging.

The National Cancer Institute says melanoma is the second most common type of cancer in women in their 20's. That age group represents a large and growing number of customers who patronize tanning facilities. 

Those who run tanning facilities insist indoor tanning is safe as long as it's done correctly.

"You're taking your clothes off in a room and you're trusting us to make sure we take care of you and that's our responsibility, " said Liza Bosinger, of Palm Bay Tanning in Parma.   

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