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What Is a Tanning Bed?


A tanning bed or sun tanning bed is a device emitting ultraviolet radiation (typically 97% UVA and 3% UVB, +/-3%) used to produce a cosmetic tan. Regular tanning beds use several fluorescent lamps that have phosphor blends designed to emit UV in a spectrum that is somewhat similar to the sun. Smaller, home tanning beds usually have 12 to 28 100 watt lamps while systems found in salons can run from 24 to 60 lamps, each consuming 100 to 200 watts.

There are also "high pressure" tanning beds that generate primarily UVA with some UVB by using highly specialized quartz lamps, reflector systems and filters. These are much more expensive, thus less commonly used. A tanning booth is quite similar to a tanning bed, but the individual stands while tanning and the typical power output of booths is higher.

Because of the adverse effects on human health of overexposure to UV radiation, including skin cancer, cataracts, suppression of the immune system, and premature skin aging, the World Health Organization does not recommend the use of UV tanning devices for cosmetic reasons. In fact, most tanning beds emit mainly UVA rays which may increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Using a tanning bed without goggles may also lead to a condition known as arc eye.

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