This article first appeared in the March 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
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The tanning industry has long been a source of controversy.
But while many say it is time for more competition, the industry has not been immune from some of the worst issues surrounding tanning, like its safety and the effects of environmental pollutants.
The industry is still grappling with the effects on skin of pollution from automobiles, the use of chemicals like lead in cosmetics, and even the tanning beds itself.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 10 and 20 million Americans die each year from skin cancer, and the problem goes beyond just sun damage.
A study in the journal Cancer, published last year, found that tanning could cause skin cancer in up to half of men, and it was linked to the use and abuse of chemicals.
A 2009 study in Skin and Environment, a peer-reviewed journal, found a link between skin cancer and exposure to lead.
A 2012 study in Cancer Prevention Research found that exposure to heavy metals in air pollution caused skin cancer.
And last month, the CDC announced a ban on tanning bed use in residential buildings, saying the use could increase the risk of skin cancer due to lead exposure.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has warned that tannery workers and those working at large plants can breathe in and exhale toxic gases that can harm human health.
The American Academy of Dermatology says the tannery industry has made strides in reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases, but that its emissions still cause skin damage.
“While we recognize that there are areas in which tanning may not be safe, the reality is that many tanning salons and tanning facilities are in residential areas, offices, and other non-residential areas where exposures to environmental pollutants are more frequent and more serious,” said Ashley Fink, a dermatologist and founder of the AAD.
“The vast majority of the tanneries in the U.s. are located in residential and commercial areas and pose little or no exposure to environmental chemicals.”
Fink says that while tanning can cause skin problems, there are ways to minimize those problems.
“Tanners and the industry have a great understanding of how to do this and are committed to minimizing the risk,” she said.
“For those who work in the tanhouse industry, the vast majority are well educated on the importance of being safe,” Fink said.
“They know what they are doing, and they know how to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals.”
But even though some workers say the industry is doing a great job in reducing the number of injuries and illnesses, Fink says the industry still faces a huge challenge in educating consumers about tanning.
“The industry has to be very much aware of the fact that we are at the mercy of consumer ignorance,” she added.
“People have a misconception that tannering is for people with dark skin and dark hair, which is not true.
If you have light skin and hair, you will not get tan.
The only people that get tan are people with light skin, and people with darker skin, who are getting sunburned.”