The Queensland health minister has issued a crackdown on illegal laser equipment and untrained laser use after up to a dozen laser patients suffered burns during tattoo removal treatments. Nadia Stennett reports. 

More than 25 laser devices have been seized across Queensland salons this month as a result of up to a dozen reports from clients suffering burn injuries during treatments, who alerted the attention of Radiation Queensland.

The raids, which were carried out by Queensland health authorities, uncovered mislabeled Class 4 equipment – intense lasers with the potential to cause serious injury if used by therapists without advanced training – which had been marked as Class 3, a classification which currently doesn’t require training or licensing.

Many of the injuries took place during tattoo removal procedures using IPL devices designed for hair removal and typically not recommended for use on parts of the body where tattoos lie, such as wrists and hands.

“The current lack of light device operator regulations and standards means that anyone can buy a laser or IPL device and set themselves up without requiring training or insurance. This situation really puts individuals at risk,” said Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) spokesperson, Dr Cath Porter.

It’s an issue that’s prompted Queensland health minister, Cameron Dick to issue a crackdown on the illegal or improper use of laser machines across the state, a move readily back by the CPSA.

Common injuries as a result of laser device misuse include permanent skin discolouration, burns, scarring and even blindness.

“Untrained and inexperienced individuals often do not carry professional indemnity insurance, which gives patients very little protection in the event of adverse outcomes.  Worse still, IPL and laser treatments can change the appearance of melanomas or other skin cancers and lead to delayed diagnosis, putting lives at risk,” said Porter.

The organisation is urging health practitioners and the general public to support national measures to reduce injuries caused by untrained operators and illegal devices.

Common injuries as a result of laser device misuse include permanent skin discolouration, burns, scarring and even blindness. The number of beauty therapists operating devices without formal skin management training is estimated to be on the rise, with high-powered devices more readily accessible online than ever before.

There is currently no uniform regulatory framework or standards in Australia applying to the operation and use of lasers and IPL for cosmetic treatment.  Furthermore, the most populated states, New South Wales and Victoria, have absolutely no regulations or registration mechanisms for either the devices or the operators, forcing consumers to become more savvy about where they seek treatment.

“We encourage individuals interested in laser or IPL procedures to visit a doctor to ensure there are no skin cancer risks and to find out what the various treatment options are,” emphasised Porter.

The health minister is continuing to initiate the seizure of equipment and records throughout the state as part of the coordinated crackdown.

A scheme for the regulation of medical and cosmetic laser and light devices is currently under consideration, and proposed regulations have been released for public consultation via the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

Have your say: Does your salon prioritise regular training when it comes to high-powered equipment?