Be Sun Smart
We’re well into the dog days of summer and the temperatures continue to be high. Along with increased temperatures at this time of year, the sun is also delivering increasing amounts of Ultra Violet (UV) energy. Even if you’re inside your car or the cab of your truck, you’re still being exposed to UV rays. While many enjoy being in the sun, we must take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from the damaging energy the sun emits.
What kind of energy doe the sun deliver?
The sun delivers Ultra Violet (UV) radiation, a known carcinogen that has a number of negative effects on humans. There are two types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. UVA radiation is not absorbed by the atmosphere and penetrates deep into the skin causing premature aging. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn, however some UVB energy is absorbed by the atmosphere.
How does the sun affect us?
Over exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer. Every year 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer, making it the most common form of cancer. Overexposure to the sun can also cause premature aging, cataracts and skin color changes (also known as a tan).
Do my truck or car windows offer any UV protection?
Truck and car windshields contain a plastic film that absorbs 100% of UVB rays and 98% of UVA, giving a sun protection factors of 50 SPF or more. Side and rear windows however do not provide as much sun protection as the windshield does and can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Unless tinted, side windows usually only block out 65 % of UV rays, leaving the opportunity for skin damage to occur in drivers who do not take protective measures. Truck drivers who frequently have long commutes are at greater risk for skin cancer.
How can you protect yourself from the sun?
Being exposed to the sun for as few as 15 minutes can damage the skin. To avoid skin and eye damage the following precautions should be taken:
- Wear sunscreen: Sunscreen works by absorbing and/or reflecting UVA and UVB rays and should be applied approximately twenty minutes before being exposed to the sun. When choosing sunscreens, look for one that has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. Remember, SPF 30 sunscreen is not twice as protective as SPF 15. Rather, SPF 30 sunscreen protects against 97% of UVB radiation whereas SPF 15 sunscreen protects against 93% of UVB radiation.
- Choose protective clothing: When possible, long sleeved shirts and long pants can provided protection from UV rays. Tightly woven fabric offers the best protection. Fabric hats that shade your face, ears, and the back of your neck provide the best protection against UV rays.
- Reach for your sunglasses: Sunglasses offer protect to eyes and the skin around the eyes from UV rays. Sunglasses also reduce the risk of cataracts.
- Look for shade: When waiting outside, look for shaded areas. Seek refuge under trees, awnings, or other shelters to reduce the opportunity for sun damage.
The intensity of the sun rays that reach the surface of the earth varies and should be considered when planning out door activities or when planning to be exposed to the sun for extended periods of time. UV intensity is measured by the UV index. When the UV index is higher more protective measures should be taken.
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s Sunscreen: The Burning Facts (PDF)
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Sun Safety page