Sun Safety at a Glance
Excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime as reported by the Skin Cancer Foundation. The American Cancer Society estimates that over a million Americans develop skin cancer annually. Changes in our environment and lifestyles have brought us outside on a more regular basis; we need to take the next step and ensure our outdoor activities protect us from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Our children are the most vulnerable group to sun overexposure due to the amount of time they typically spend outdoors. Children don’t have fully developed skin pigment cells, so they burn faster than adults and the damage can last a lifetime. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises that during 10 AM until 4 PM, we should seek shade while we’re enjoying outdoor activities. Children are often outdoors during these times enjoying recess, lunch, sporting events, extracurricular activities, and physical education. It is vital that educators and parents take the necessary steps to protect their children from sun overexposure by ensuring appropriate shade areas are available when enjoying outdoor activities.
Did You Know?
- Depletion of the earth’s ozone layer increases our exposure to the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet (U.V.) rays.
- U.V. rays can cause skin cancer and other skin ailments.
- Over half of all cancers diagnosed are skin cancers.
- Over a million Americans develop skin cancer annually.
- A newborn today is twice as likely to develop skin cancer vs. 10 years ago (and 12 times as likely as 1945).
- 80% of a lifetime of U.V. exposure occurs before age 20.
- One bad sunburn during childhood can cause cancer 30 years later.
- Children don’t have fully developed pigment cells – they burn faster and the damage lasts a lifetime.
The many benefits of Shade
- Shade structures by Shade Systems create an outdoor space that is comfortable for use in all seasons.
- Minimize the effect of the sun’s harmful UV rays by providing up to 99% U.V. screenings to guard against sun overexposure.
- Shade Systems’ structures are engineered and positioned to provide shade that falls in the correct place and at the desired time of day to keep you and your children protected.
- Air temperature is reduced in the summer. Adding shade to an outdoor recreation area reduces temperature extremes by up to 15-20 degrees underneath the shaded area!
- Perfect for play areas and concessions near ball fields for foul ball protection. Stray balls bounce harmlessly off the canopy.
Health Effects of Overexposure to the Sun
An overexposure to UV radiation can cause sunburn and skin cancer. In humans, prolonged exposure to solar UV radiation may result in acute and chronic health effects on the skin, eye, and immune system. Ultraviolet irradiation present in sunlight is an environmental human carcinogen. The toxic effects of UV from natural sunlight are a major concern for human health.
The different types of ultraviolet rays
There are three different types of ultraviolet (U.V.) rays (see Fig 2). They are:
- Ultraviolet A (UVA): UVA rays are most of the sun’s natural light. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin causing wrinkles and increased aging and have been known to cause skin cancer. UVA rays are not absorbed by the ozone layer.
- Ultraviolet B (UVB): UVB rays are the most damaging to the skin and are the main cause of sunburns. UVB rays have been known to cause skin cancer, cataracts, and suppression of the immune system. UVB rays are mostly absorbed by the ozone layer, but some do reach the earth’s surface.
- Ultraviolet C (UVC): UVC rays never reach the earth’s surface as they are filtered out by the atmosphere. UVC rays are completely absorbed by the ozone layer and oxygen.
Factors which influence the intensity of ultraviolet rays
Many factors will influence the intensity of ultraviolet rays. As such, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in connection with its SunWise program, publishes a daily U.V. index to advise citizens of the intensity of the U.V. rays in their city. You can view your daily U.V. index by clicking here.
A list of factors that influence the intensity of ultraviolet rays can be found below:
- Summer Months – In the months of May, June and July, when solar altitude is at its highest, UV irradiance reaches its highest rates.
- Midday – In the course of one day, UV irradiance is at its highest between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Sea Level – Irradiance rises with the sea level, by about 15-20 % at an increase in altitude by 1000 meters.
- Snow, Sand and Water – Reflection can enhance UV irradiance. Snow can intensify it up to twofold, and surfaces of sand and water also reflect, even if considerably less than snow.
- Cloud Cover – The impact of cloud cover on UV irradiance is very strong: a closed, thick cloud cover is capable of blocking up to 90% of UV radiation, whereas thin cloud layers or fog can act as amplifiers by reflection.
How to Protect Yourself
- Seek shade structures during the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM
- Cover your arms and legs with loose fitting, light colored, tightly woven, and light weight clothing
- Wear a hat if in the direct sunlight for extended periods of time
- Wear sunglasses (even if the sun does not bother your eyes)
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours (But see why sun screens don’t work as well as you might think!)
Data sources: American Cancer Society, Wikipedia.org, Innsbruck Medical University Division for Biomedical Physics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency