Sun Safety Tips
Along with providing the earth with warmth and light, the sun is also responsible for producing harmful Ultra-Violet (UV) radiation. UV rays are more intense then visible light and can penetrate through clothing and glass windows, and they can even be reflected up by the ground. Overexposure to the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer, the most prevalent form of cancer in the U.S.
Excess exposure to the sun can also cause:
- benign tumors (moles)
- fine and coarse wrinkles
- discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation
- sallowness (a yellow discoloration of the skin)
- elastosis (the destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue, causing lines and wrinkles)
By taking basic precautions and using knowledge about UV radiation you can steer clear of conditions associated with excessive sun exposure while keeping your skin healthy.
The Facts about UV Radiation
- Sun Intensity varies throughout the day. The higher the sun is in the sky, the higher the radiation level.
- 90% of UV rays can penetrate cloud cover. Even on cloudy days you still need to take necessary precautions.
- UV rays are more intense at higher altitudes due to the reduction in atmosphere.
- UV exposure on the arms inside a vehicle with closed widows is ~5% of ambient UV radiation.
- UV exposure on the arms inside a vehicle with open widows is ~30% of ambient UV radiation.
Protect Your Eyes
As a truck driver, you often spend long hours driving in sunny conditions. When exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you are may experience an effect called photokeratitis – like a sunburn for your eyes. Photokeratitis may be painful and include symptoms such as red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Fortunately, this is usually temporary and rarely causes permanent damage to the eyes. However, long-term exposure can be more serious and lead to eye-related health problems, like cataract, down the road. Protect yourself by picking sunglasses that provide full protection against ultraviolet light. To ensure your sunglasses offer this level of protection, look for a label or a sticker that says one or more of the following:
- Lenses block 99% or 100% of UVB and UVA rays
- Lenses meet ANSI Z80.3 blocking requirements. (This refers to standards set by the American National Standards Institute.)
- UV 400 protection. (These block light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which means that your eyes are shielded from even the tiniest UV rays.)
Protect Your Skin
A combination of appropriate clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants in conjunction with using sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater will provide adequate protection from UV rays. Clothing alone is not always sufficient. The heavy cotton weave or denim fabric in pants is suitable protection; however, the SPF rating of a T-shirt can be as low as 4, depending on the color and thickness. It is also important to be mindful of factors such as time of day and amount of overhead shade. Be smart, cover as much of your skin as possible! Closing a car window or applying some sunblock will drastically reduce the amount of UV radiation absorbed by your skin.
The effectiveness of sunblock is quantified by its SPF value. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection. However, as SPF rises, the amount of sun protection offered increases only slightly. It is a false notion that doubling or even tripling the SPF value will double or triple the amount of protection you’re receiving.
Some things to consider:
- Double SPF does not mean double protection.
- Using half the directed amount of an SPF 70 Sunblock does not equate to using a SPF 35 Sunblock.
- Using a higher SPF does not prolong the protective effects. Sunblock should be reapplied every 2 hours regardless of SPF.
There is also a variety of sun protective clothing available with tightly woven fabric and special dyes that block UV rays. Sun protective clothing provides protection comparable to sunblock.
It is true that some amount of sun is healthy since UV radiation is essential for the production of vitamin D. However, it takes only a small amount of sun exposure (about 10 to 15 minutes is enough for most lighter-skinned people) for your body to produce all the vitamin D needed for one day.
More Sun Safety Information:
- Get more sun safety information from the EPA’s SunWise program.
- CNN examines common sun-related myths: Six Common Sun Myths, Exposed
- This New York Times article explains SPF ratings: Confused by SPF? Take a Number