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Tanning Bed Warning

by JOHN LaFORGE

The use of tanning beds is big business, but young users should swear off the USA’s Ultra Scary Artifice.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says about 28 million people endure high-powered tanning lamp scorching annually. Having summer-colored skin year round exposes the zapped persons to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and an increased cancer risk — so local, state and federal authorities are finally starting to limit access.

About 2.3 million of the 28 million faux-tanners in the US are teenagers, but young peoples’ growing and changing bodies are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of UV rays than are their elders. Consequently, California and Vermont prohibit minors from using the indoor tanning machines. New York and New Jersey ban their use by people under 17, and the cities of Chicago and Springfield, Illinois forbid minors access to the devices.

Even a single session under a tanning bed’s intense UV rays — 10 times the UV of the sun — increases one’s risk of getting melanoma (the deadliest kind of skin cancer) by 74 percent, according to Jeff Shuren, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Melanoma has been linked to severe sun burns, especially among the young.In July 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the UN’s World Health Organization, placed tanning beds in its highest cancer risk category — calling them “carcinogenic to humans” — in the same league as cigarettes and cigarette smoke. Previously, IARC categorized the beds as “probably” carcinogenic.IARC’s report declared that UV radiation is more dangerous than previously believed, especially regarding infants and children. (This is also the scientific history of ionizing radiation emitted by radioactive isotopes: The more science discovers about it, the more cancerous it is declared to be.)This past May, the FDA proposed new rules for tanning machines. The regulations require manufacturers to affix cancer warnings — like on cigarettes packs — urging people under 18 not to use them at all. The FDA will also require builders of the “beds” to apply for approval of their products prior to distribution. “The science is clear,” says Dr. Mary Maloney, Vice President of regulatory policy at the AAD. “The risk of developing melanoma increases 75 percent for individuals who’ve been exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning,” she told the New York Times.FDA Warnings Issued from the TopFDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told the press last May, “Using indoor tanning beds can damage your skin and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.” The FDA says that the UV machines can also cause eye damage, immune suppression, premature aging and allergic reactions. Goggles are a must if you decide to risk your future for a tan.

Scientist Sharon Miller, the FDAs international expert on UV radiation and tanning, says agency’s website, “Although some people think that a tan gives them a ‘healthy’ glow, any tan is a sign of skin damage.” Miller notes, “Recognizing exposure to the rays as an ‘insult,’ the skin acts in self-defense by producing more melanin, a pigment that darkens the skin. Over time, this damage will lead to prematurely aged skin and, in some cases, skin cancer.”

From phones to reactors, all sorts of radiation — ionizing, UV, and electromagnetic — bombards the young and the old, causing cancer in our high-tech, overdeveloped urbanity. Ionizing radiation from radioactive materials smashes apart our DNA but exposure is encouraged by doctors who push X-rays, and CT and PET scans. And it’s permitted to be dumped into the environment via airborne and waterborne releases from reactors, nuclear weapons plants, and medical and research facilities. More comes from wild fires, irradiation machines, scrap metal recycling sites and accidental leaks at reactors and their waste fuel pools. Electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and towers, transmission lines, appliances, and Wi-Fi hubs, etc., all add to the cancer epidemic.

Don’t increase your chances of becoming an unhappy statistic just for the sake of a tan — and warn your friends.

John LaForge works for Nukewatch, an environmental watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly newsletter.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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