Protect Yourself From the Sun: July is UV Safety Month
Some fun time under the sun, by the beach, is always a much awaited summer activity. However, times are changing and the sun’s rays continue to prove quite harmful to our skin. In response to the threat of the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays, July has been designated as UV Safety Month. It is the perfect time to remind people about the danger that ultraviolet exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and how to protect themselves in the sun.
What You May Not Know About the Sun
The sun may seem like such a wonderful thing, bringing light to an otherwise dark environment, but it also emits a kind of radiation in the form of ultraviolet (UV) light. This light is classified into three main types by the wavelength:
Now the earth’s stratosphere has a protective layer, widely known as the ozone layer, which is responsible for blocking all UVC light. However, the UVB and UVA light can still pass through the earth’s atmosphere. Since both the UVB and UVA light can penetrate the Earth’s surface, it is very crucial for individuals to wear protection whenever they are exposed to sunlight.
Differentiating UVA from UVB
UVA is the type of light that penetrates quite deeply into our skin, and is actually the type of ultraviolet radiation that is known to cause aging, or the wrinkling of the skin. On the other hand, UVB is the type of radiation that is responsible for sunburns. These two can cause skin cancer.
When is UV radiation at its highest?
UV radiation is at its most dangerous when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. What this means is that the UV levels will be highest when it’s noon on a sunny, cloudless day, most specifically during the summer season. UV levels are also known to be very dangerous in areas where there are surfaces that reflect sunlight very well, such as the beach where there is sand, or snowy mountains. It is so much more dangerous when the skin absorbs the light from a reflective surface rather than direct from the sun because the radiation that bounces off from the reflective surface is greater, as the snow or sand can intensify the light.
How does UV radiation affect people?
Overexposure to UV radiation has an array of negative health effects which can be short-term effects such as sunburns, or long-term affects like skin cancer.
In the United States, there are more than one million people who get diagnosed with with skin cancer annually, with one individual dying from it every hour. Overexposure to UV radiation is also known to cause cataracts and other kinds of eye damage, accelerated aging of the skin, skin growths, as well as weakening of the immune system.
Are you at risk for Skin Cancer?
Make no mistake, the sun can harm anyone without adequate protection, but there are some people who have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. These are individuals who spend a great deal of time under the sun, as well those who get sunburns more often than most people.
How can UV Safety Month make a difference?
In our own way, we can all look at this month of July as an opportunity to raise awareness on skin cancer and encourage our friends and loved ones to take action. Prevention is the best way to go. Here are a few ideas you can do both at home and in your community:
- Encourage your friends, colleagues, and relatives to adopt good habits, such as wearing protection like wearing sunscreen and limiting the amount of time spent under the sun.
- Motivate teachers or administrators in your community to teach kids about the dangers of UV rays and why it is important to wear protection.
- Identify and coordinate with youth leaders and organizations in your community that can talk to residents about steps they can take to fight skin cancer.
UV Rays Can Also Affect the Eyes
It’s not just the skin that UV rays harm, but the eyes as well. Follow these simple tips that can go a long way in protecting your eyes from the sun:
- Eye damage caused by the sun’s rays can occur anytime during the year, take the time to invest on UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats. Wear them whenever you are outside, whether for short walks or leisurely sightseeing around town.
- Do not let the clouds fool you into thinking you are safe. The sun’s harmful rays can still pass through the haze.
- Never look at the sun directly without shades or anything in between. Doing so can lead to solar retinopathy, where your retina gets damaged from solar radiation.
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