Looking at the hazardous effects of radiation

The National Radiation Laboratory(external link) (NRL) is the lead public health agency for all radiation issues. NRL provides expert advice, service provision and research capability on matters concerning public, occupational and medical exposure to radiation, the performance of radiation equipment and the measurement of radiation and radioactivity.

Population Health also carries out some additional activities, including:

  • responding to inquiries and complaints
  • reviewing resource consent applications relating to ionising and non-ionising radiation and staff may also respond to radiation emergencies.

Ionising radiation is radiation which has sufficient energy to knock electrons out of (i.e. ionise) atoms.  X-rays and gamma rays are types of ionising radiation, as are the particulate radiations of alpha and beta particles that are found in some types of nuclear decay. Ionising radiation is what the general public regards as ‘radioactive'.

Non-ionising radiation includes electromagnetic fields in the form of extremely low frequency fields, visible light (including lasers), microwave (including microwave ovens and cellphone transmissions), radiofrequency fields, ultraviolet and infrared.

Sunbeds and solariums

Using a sunbed is never recommended. They are not a safe way to tan or boost your vitamin D. Sunbeds expose users to higher levels of dangerous UV radiation than the sun. They increase your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.
You’re more at risk of skin cancer the more often you use sunbeds, and the younger you start using them. Your skin will also age more quickly.

Some people are especially at risk. Never use sunbeds if you:

  • have pale skin that doesn’t tan easily, or have lots of freckles and moles
  • have had skin cancer before
  • are under 18 (even people under 30 are at higher risk).

Visit the Cancer Society website(external link) to find out more about the risks of using sunbeds.

Guidelines for sunbed operators

There are voluntary guidelines for sunbed operators, set out in the standard AS/NZS 2635:2008 Solaria for cosmetic purposes.  However, many sunbed operators do not follow these guidelines. See the Consumer New Zealand report on sunbeds(external link) for more information.


 Further information