NEWS
07/30/2011 11:54 EDT | Updated 09/29/2011 05:12 EDT

Industry rep issues warning after death following spa treatment on Quebec farm

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MONTREAL - The head of an industry group says the death of a Quebec woman following a cleansing treatment should serve as a cautionary tale for spa-goers.

Lucie Brosseau said people should do their own research before getting treatment at a spa.

"The industry is pretty new," Brosseau, president of Alliance Spas Relais Sante, told the Canadian Press on Saturday.

"We've been putting an emphasis on quality."

The Quebec group recently launched a set of standards to make sure the consumer "would get the appropriate treatment," but the certification is optional, she said.

That puts the onus on the consumer to ensure they are getting safe treatment from someone who is properly trained.

The warning comes following the death of Chantal Lavigne, 35, who was one of about 10 people taking part in a lengthy detoxification session at a Quebec spa on Friday.

Participants were wrapped in mud and cellophane as part of the treatment at a farmhouse in the small town of Durham-Sud, about 100 kilometres from Montreal.

Quebec provincial police spokesman Daniel Thibodeau said Lavigne and another woman were rushed to hospital in nearby Drummondville.

"One was in critical condition when we found her, the other was suffering from serious vomiting," Thibodeau said.

Lavigne died Friday afternoon, while the other woman was in stable condition Saturday.

Police are trying to determine if negligence or criminal conduct was involved.

The spa, called the Reine de la Paix, specializes in Reiki therapy, and offers energy therapy, massage, and natural products, according to an online listing.

The woman who runs it, Daiva Goulet, could not be reached for comment Saturday afternoon.

Regardless of the investigation's outcome, the incident has prompted questions about the lack of regulation in the spa industry.

There is no national system of standards or regulations for spas, according to the industry group Leading Spas of Canada.

"Many provinces have little or no licensing for spa practitioners...," states the organization's website.

"Schools do not have equivalent educational programs and/or requirements for graduation."

Like the Quebec group, Leading Spas of Canada offers its own quality assurance program to ensure member spas meet certain standards.

Meanwhile, the spa industry continues to grow, with clients seeking out an increasing variety of treatments.

Between 1996 to 2006, the number of spas jumped by 329 per cent in Canada.

There were over 2,300 spa locations in Canada in 2006, according to a report by PKF Consulting, a hospitality and tourism advising firm.

The Quebec spa isn't the only one that has been the subject of recent attention.

Earlier this month, a Vancouver Island spa was ordered by the local health authority to stop offering a popular pedicure procedure involving nibbling fish.