Windsor tanning salons follow industry guidelines

During unscientific tests CBC News conducted on teen tanning in six cities, Windsor tanning salons had one of the highest compliance rates.
The World Health Organization said childhood exposure to ultraviolet radiation is known to increase the risk of developing melanoma later in life. (CBC)

In preparation for prom, grad and weddings, teen girls are seeking a golden glow. And some use tanning beds to do get it.

The World Health Organization said childhood exposure to ultraviolet radiation is known to increase the risk of developing melanoma later in life.

CBC has been running tests across the country to see what regulations - if any - tanning salons are following when it comes to underage girls.

The tests found people under 18 are being allowed to tan without their parents' consent, contrary to voluntary industry guidelines.

In 20 out of 31 combined cases in Windsor, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton and St. John's, teenagers were allowed into the tanning room. The girls did not use the tanning beds.

Windsor had one of the highest compliance rates of the six cities. Fifteen-year-old Kristen Grosso was denied access to tanning beds at four of the five salons she visited.

That's okay with her. She has never received an artificial tan. It's not something she believes in.

"I personally am against it, especially the research I have done, is that you get more of a risk of getting cancer," she said.

The WHO considers ultraviolet radiation-emitting tanning devices "carcinogenic to humans."

Guidelines are voluntary

Regulations and laws differ among provinces, but Health Canada has voluntary guidelines that say anyone under 16 should not use a tanning bed at all. The industry's guidelines are also voluntary.

The one salon that let Grosso in also encouraged her to come back.

"I personally was in shock when she allowed me to go in at only 15 years old," Grosso said.

The salon says it does have a policy that anyone under 16 needs their parent's permission to tan.  It's looking into why Grosso was allowed in.

Of 31 salons CBC tested across the country, 20 places — or 65 per cent — let underage girls in to tan.

The industry said that's upsetting, considering it tries to follow its own voluntary guidelines that say anyone under 18 needs parental consent. 

"My reaction is, I'm disappointed," said Steven Gilroy, executive director for the Joint Canadian Tanning Association. "But again, all of our members want to move this to a regulation. We don't want it as a guideline, we want to move this to a regulation."

Ontario is moving towards that regulation. Bill 74 would ban tanning for anyone under 18. It is being debated at Queen's Park right now.

Dermatologist Ian Landells said the sooner legislation passes, the better. He said the danger tanning beds put young people in is undeniable.

"The World Health Organization categorizes artificial tanning as a Group 1 carcinogen. That states that they are carcinogenic to human beings. Not 'they may be', not 'they can be' - they are carcinogenic," Landells said. "The only other things in that category are arsenic, asbestos, and tobacco."

In Windsor, students are setting their own rules.

Nine schools took part in a tan-free prom. They got their students to pledge they wouldn't tan before the big event.

"We had put out displays with the facts about melanoma and the dangers of indoor tanning, and that raised a lot of awareness," said Alessandra Ceccacci, who organized students at Villanova high school, where 60 participated. "It's a current issue. Melanoma is a very preventable cancer."