As we prepare for Winter’s arrival, many of us are longing for our trips to the beach for “fun in the sun.”  But the cold weather does not stop everyone from working on their tans — and the FDA recently announced it is proposing heightened safety measures on “sunlamp” products, more commonly known as indoor tanning beds.  The rules would impose new minimum age requirements to use the tanning beds as well as require additional measures to improve the safety of the devices themselves.

More specifically, the FDA has proposed two rules:

The first rule would restrict the use of sunlamp products to individuals 18 and older.  This, in itself, is notable since 1.6 million minors indoor tan each year.  In addition, before their first tanning session and every six months thereafter, adult users over age 18 would have to sign a risk acknowledgement certification stating they have been informed of the risks to health that may result from use of sunlamp products.

The second rule would require that sunlamp manufacturers and tanning facilities take additional measures to improve the overall safety of sunlamp devices by:

  • making warnings easier to read and more prominent on the device;
  • requiring an emergency shut off switch, or “panic button”;
  • improving eye safety by adding requirements that would limit the amount of light allowed through protective eyewear;
  • improving labeling on replacement bulbs so tanning facility operators can make sure they are using the proper replacement bulbs, reducing the risk of accidental burns; and
  • prohibiting dangerous device modifications, like installing stronger bulbs, without re-certifying and re-identifying the device with the FDA.

The proposed rules are now online for a 90 day public comment period.  If enacted, the new rules could have a significant impact on a large number of companies.  FDA notes that there are approximately 18,000 to 19,000 indoor tanning salons and 15,000 to 20,000 other facilities, such as health clubs, spas, and other commercial establishments, that offer tanning services in the United States.

According to the FDA’s press release, the Agency took this action “to help protect young people from a known and preventable cause of skin cancer and other harms.” FDA further stated that “Individuals under 18 years are at greatest risk of the adverse health consequences of indoor tanning.”

FDA also cited a statistic from the American Academy of Dermatology that those who have been exposed to radiation from indoor tanning are 59 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.