Indoor Tanning Bed Injuries Report

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1985 started requiring that the tanning equipment and medical devices used by indoor tanning salons be manufactured and used according to a set of guidelines. Documentation of injuries related to the tanning equipment is available online. This study analyzes the data to determine how much risk of injury caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is involved in using indoor tanning facilities. The analysis shows that an insignificant number of injuries reported are caused by UV exposure, and even these were avoidable if the FDA guidelines were followed.

The FDA began testing and regulating the tanning equipment used by the indoor tanning industry in 1979. In 1985, the FDA issued standardized guidelines to this industry. Equipment like sunlamps was further categorized as medical devices and their manufacturing required compliance with the FDA regulations. Many sunlamps were replaced with new ones that could be regulated with a timer. Over the years, the injuries connected to the newly manufactured equipment have been recorded. This study examines the data, taking into account the risk to human tissue due to the exposure to UV rays during indoor tanning. Understanding this risk helps to determine the time of exposure to the sunlamps.

The records of equipment-related injuries were available online from two databases approved by the FDA. These databases were combined for analysis. The data were examined based on a set of 14 questions that explored the following: if the injury was reported; the kind of injury and how critical it was; was it caused due to failure of some aspect of the equipment; was the equipment assembled and operated according to the guidelines; and was the report thorough. The answers were examined for common elements, enabling the examination of circumstantial factors relating to UV exposure-related injuries.


  • In this study, 142 injury cases were analyzed. “The incidents reported consist of mechanical and electrical injury and acute UV overexposure and do not include data on cumulative or chronic UV effects.”
  • Between 1985 and 2006, 56 injuries were caused by UV exposure and only eight of those needed hospitalization.
  • Of the 56 injuries reported involving overexposure, less than half were caused due to noncompliance to FDA regulations regarding eye protection, maximum exposure to the sunlamp, or the kind of lamps used.
  • Significantly more injuries were reported from 1985 to 1995 than in the period 1996 to 2006, even though the number of people using indoor tanning facilities tripled.

The databases are based on voluntary reporting of adverse experiences, so they may not include all injuries. No information was found that insisted on reporting of such experiences to safeguard the FDA regulations. The available data may over-represent the injuries due to human nature. The FDA collected more data in 1996; however, it is not available to the public.

In this study, the evidence shows that UV exposure-related injuries that occur during indoor tanning are very few in number. The FDA recommends the kind of sunlamps, exposure time, and time for acclimatization to the exposure. Complying with these guidelines would prevent even a small chance of injury. Unsupervised and coin operated solaria are uncommon and often not allowed. Certain medication can reduce tolerance to the UV radiations, and doctors should be consulted before using a tanning facility. The reduced number of reports of injuries was probably due to the termination of any compulsion to report them in 1996. These days, there are courses to train salon operators; however, the FDA needs to ensure implementation of the current guidelines.

For More Information:
Indoor Tanning Injuries: An Evaluation of FDA Adverse Event Reporting Data
Publication Journal: Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 2009
By John Dowdy; Robert Sayre
From the Rapid Precision Testing Laboratory, Cordova, Tennessee and University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences, Memphis, Tennessee

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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