A STATE Government crackdown on the use of illegal and potentially highly dangerous lasers to remove tattoos is under way following complaints to the Health Minister by the member for Bundaberg, Leanne Donaldson.
Ms Donaldson said a Bundaberg man had been badly scarred and received severe skin burns as a result of being treated for tattoo removal with a laser machine that had not been correctly classified.
"Early last month, an officer of Queensland Health came to Bundaberg and looked at the machine, and confirmed it had been incorrectly labelled," she said.
"It was labelled as a class 3 laser machine, which doesn't require licencing or training, but it was in fact a class 4 machine, where the operator does require training.
"I'd urge anyone contemplating having tattoos removed to look closely at the laser equipment which is being used and ask the operator whether they are licenced.
"In this case, the machine was too powerful, and has the potential to cause skin burns and can in some cases even lead to blindness."
Ms Donaldson stressed that no blame should be allocated to the operator of the machine.
"The culprit is whoever is labelling the machines offshore before they are being imported into Australia," she said.
Health Minister Cameron Dick said Queensland health authorities had seized records and equipment at certain locations in south-east Queensland as part of a coordinated crack-down on illegal laser equipment and untrained laser use.
Early investigations have revealed that approximately 25 of the potentially-dangerous lasers, most commonly used for cosmetic procedures including tattoo removal, have been sold to unlicensed operators around the state.
The lasers, believed to have been imported from overseas, are either unlabelled or labelled as 'Class 3' lasers, which do not require any permit or licence to operate.
But some have been assessed as being the much more powerful 'Class 4' lasers, which require a licence to be possessed as well as training for any individuals who operate such a device.
Two suppliers based on the Sunshine Coast are currently assisting Queensland Health in its investigations.
Queensland Health is now warning consumers to be aware of the risks of unlicensed businesses and untrained operators using this equipment.
Mr Dick said that the machines are sub-standard and could cause permanent scarring and disfigurement without a properly trained operator. Queensland's licensing system ensures minimum standards are met.
"In the wrong hands, laser equipment like this can cause significant harm. The effects can be devastating and long lasting," Mr Dick said.
"We have responded to a number of complaints from or about consumers who have received severe burns and scarring as a result of treatment with these machines.
"We are encouraging others to come forward with their own complaints or information about where these machines are being used.
"These lasers are much more powerful than their labelling indicates, so they pose a real risk of injury to anyone receiving treatment. Not only have clients been burnt but subsequent infections have exacerbated the situation."
Mr Dick said that anyone who had experienced issues such as burns as a result of cosmetic procedures, including tattoo removal, should report it immediately.
"If you are considering any form of laser treatment, ask to see the possession licence for the business and the individual operator's use licence before accepting their services. We are continuing our investigations to ensure that Queenslanders are protected."