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Sun Safety Information for Everyone

Work, Rest or Play in a Sun-Safe Way

Without the sun, life simply could not exist. It provides warmth and light to us and our environment. However, the sun's rays also can be harmful. Overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation (UV) can damage skin and eyes. The effects of sun damage include freckling, tanning, sun burning, wrinkling, cataracts and skin cancer.

Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the United States with more than one million new cases diagnosed each year. It is also one of the fastest rising cancers. It has reached epidemic proportions, especially in the Southwest. Arizona, for example, has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the United States and the second highest rate of skin cancer in the world behind Queensland, Australia.

UV Rays: What are they?
  • UVA is a long wavelength that penetrates the skin very deeply, degrading the elastic fibers in the skin. This causes aging, some sunburn and adds to the effect of UVB rays.
  • UVB rays penetrate the top layers of the skin creating sunburn. This sunburn promotes skin aging and is the main cause of skin carcinomas.
  • Exposure to UVA and UVB rays has a cumulative effect on the body. The more exposure, the more potential damage is done.

Risk Factors

Some factors that contribute to your risk of skin cancer are beyond your control:
  • Your Family History
    People with a family history of skin cancer have a greater risk of developing it themselves.
  • Your Physical Characteristics
    People with fair skin and light blue or green eyes and those who have red or blonde hair and freckle easily have a greater risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Your Environment
    People who live, work or play closer to the equator, at higher altitudes, and in locations with many dry, sunny days have a higher risk of sun exposure, sunburn and skin cancer. Mountains have some of the most intense UV on Earth. At an altitude of 10,000 feet, UV is 50% more intense than at sea level. Also, the thinning of the Earth's protective ozone layer increases everyone's UV exposure.
  • Preventing Skin and Eye Damage
    Even though you may not be able to control your skin type or where you live, you can control your ability to be safe in the sun. Most skin cancer is caused by over-exposure to UV. By reducing your sun exposure you can help prevent skin cancer. You and your family should be aware of the risks of too much sun exposure and adopt simple sun safety practices to prevent serious health problems.
Follow These Simple Steps to Protect Yourself:

1. Access the Daily UV Index
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) have developed the UV index. The UV index indicates the likely level of exposure to UV rays for a particular city on a given day.
  • Several U.S. cities are given a daily UV Index Forecast on a scale of 0 to 10+, where 0 indicates a minimal likely level of exposure to UV rays and 10+ means a very high level of exposure.
  • Access the daily UV Index Forecast for your city via the Internet or your local newspaper (some local newspapers report the daily UV Index Forecast for their particular city on the weather page).
  • Take more sun safety precautions on days with higher UV index values.
2. Limit Your Time in the Sun
  • UV is most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so plan outdoor activities for before or after peak sun intensity hours.
  • Limit your time in the sun all year round. UV can penetrate through clouds. Snow reflects UV back at you and can cause a severe sunburn.
  • If you must be outdoors during peak sun hours, use shade or find shaded areas.
  • Umbrellas, trees, ramadas, and shadows from buildings are good sources of shade.
3. Wear Cover-Up Clothing
  • Wear clothing that covers the most skin, such as long-sleeved shirts with collars, long pants, sun - safe swim suits, socks and shoes
  • Choose tightly knit fabrics that have fewer or smaller holes between the threads.
  • Choose darker colors of fabrics because they absorb UV better than lighter colors.
  • Choose heavier - weight fabrics because they tend to block more UV than lighter - weight fabrics.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats with at least a 3" brim or a legionnaires hat with a flap in the back. Still, any hat is better than no hat at all.
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses every day and goggles when skiing or snowboarding.
4. Use Sunscreen Every Day of The Year
  • Use sunscreen in addition to cover-up clothing, not in place of it.
  • Use sunscreen for protection, not to prolong your time in the sun.
  • Choose a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or greater. The higher the SPF number, the longer the sunscreen's protection will last.
  • Choose broad-spectrum sunscreens that block UVA (the 'aging' rays) and UVB (the 'burning' rays).
  • Choose water-resistant sunscreens that will not wash off as easily.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Use sunscreen with a current date. Sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years.
  • The chemicals in sunscreens either absorb or reflect UV. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun so that the chemicals have time to be absorbed into your skin.
  • Use more sunscreen than you think. Apply it liberally over all exposed skin areas.
  • Wear sunscreen under insect repellant or make-up.
Some people may experience increased sensitivity to sunlight because of certain medications they take. Consult your doctor about your medications and sun sensitivity.

SPF Range Approximate % UV Blocked
15 93%
30 96.7%
60 97%


Children Need Special Protection

Even though skin cancer most often develops in adulthood, its development may be related to our sun exposure as children. Scientists theorize that there are two primary triggers for skin cancer:
  • Accumulated lifetime exposure to the sun
  • Severe sunburns
The more time you spend in the sun over your lifetime, the greater your risk of developing non-melanoma (basal and squamous cell) skin cancer. How does this relate to children? Kids play outdoors. We get most of our sun exposure before age 18. In addition, severe sunburns are insults to the skin and its cells that can cause permanent damage to the skin's deeper layers. As few as one severe sunburn before the age of 18 may double the risk for developing melanoma later in life. Because children spend so much time outdoors, they need to know how to "play safe in the sun" by finding shade, wearing cover-up clothing, and using sunscreen.

What is UPF?

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. It is the ratio of the average effective ultraviolet radiation (UVR) irradiance transmitted and calculated through air to the average effective UVR irradiance transmitted and calculated through fabric. In other words, it is the amount of ultraviolet radiation that a fabric blocks. Fabrics are generally tested by spectrophotometer equipment and are not tested using human subjects. Hence UPF values are used since the endpoint of the test is UV transmittance, not skin reddening. SPF values indicate a function of skin reddening, therefore only fabrics tested on human subjects should use a SPF value.

What is sun protective clothing?

Sun-protective clothing is any garment that provides adequate protection from the sun. Generally speaking, clothing must have a UPF value of 15 to 50+ (blocks 93-98% of UV radiation), and cover or shade sufficient skin to protect a person from the damaging rays of the sun. The following are some things that can effect the sun protectiveness of clothing:
  • Tightness of weave or knit
  • Fiber content
  • Factory chemical treatments
  • Optical brighteners in detergent, or other laundering treatments
  • Garment style (does not effect UPF values, but garment needs to cover sufficient skin to be sun protective)
  • Sun protective clothing styles cover to the neck, to the elbows, and to the knees
  • Sun protective hats have three-inch brims all the way around or have a three-inch brim in the front with a legionnaire's flap in the back


What do I need to know about sunglasses?

The most important things to look for when choosing a pair of sunglasses is the amount of UV light that is blocked by the sunglasses and a proper fit. Lenses should be large enough to shield your eyes from most angles. It is important to note that darker lenses in sunglasses do not necessarily offer better UV protection. Sunglasses have many features, not all of which are related to the amount of sun protection they provide:
  • Blocks 99% of UV light:
    This is a very important thing to look for when purchasing sunglasses. This claim tells you that the sunglasses block 99 percent of harmful UV rays. The tag may also say "UV absorption up to 400 nm".
  • Wrap-around:
    This is another important thing to look for when purchasing sunglasses. These types of sunglasses wrap around the face and protect eyes from all angles.
  • Polycarbonate lenses:
    This type of lens is the most impact-resistant lens on the market today. (This type of lens does not necessarily offer better UV protection than other types of lenses.)
  • Blocks 90 percent of infrared rays:
    The amount of infrared rays sunglasses block does not effect the UV protectiveness of sunglasses. (Infrared rays are not harmful to eyes.)
  • Blue blocking:
    This type of lens does not offer protection from harmful UV light. However, it may benefit your eyes' health in other ways. This type of lens can also improve the clarity of distant objects.
  • Polarized:
    This type of lens does not help protect your eyes from damaging UV rays. However, this type of lens can improve eyesight by reducing distracting surface glare, most notably from water and snow.
In early 2000, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has published new national standards for the preparation and labeling of fabrics and garments intended to protect humans from the sun's UVA and UVB radiation. The American Sun Protection Association (ASPA), a member of the ASTM standard drafting committee, is leading a national effort to encourage the sun protective clothing industry to adopt and promote the new standards in the U.S. marketplace.

The new ASTM standards D6544 and D6603 combine with AATCC 183 to form the most stringent UV-protective clothing standard in the world. "This is the credibility boost the U.S. sun protective clothing industry has been waiting for," said Mary Buller, ASPA Executive Director. "Finally, consumers will know what UPF is and will come to trust that the garment they buy will provide the same level of UV protection during its use-Iife as it did on the day it was purchased."

Classification
Category
UPF
Range
UPF Values Allowed
on Labels
Approximate % UV
Blocked
Good UV Protection 15-24 15 and 20 93.3% - 95.8%
Very Good UV Protection 25-39 25, 30 and 35 96.0% - 97.4%
Excellent UV Protection 40-50+ 40, 45, 50 and 50+ 97.5% - 98.0%

D6544 requires fabrics making a claim of sun protectiveness to (a) undergo 40 simulated launderings, (b) be exposed to 100 fading units of simulated sunlight, and if intended for swimsuits, and (c) be exposed to chlorinated water prior to UV- transmission testing. The standards are currently voluntary, but could become mandatory if not adopted by the industry in a timely manner. Sun protection claims will be monitored by the FTC.

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