July is UV Safety Awareness Month. The goal is to raise awareness about ultraviolet radiation (UVR) as the days grow longer and more time is spent outdoors. UV Safety Awareness Month takes place in July because the sun emits the most UVR, and people spend more time in the sun during the summer.
Overexposure to UV radiation can damage your skin and eyes, so it’s essential to know what it is and understand the risks and how to protect yourself.
UV Safety Awareness Month is a reminder to protect yourself against UV radiation. Why is UV Safety Awareness Month necessary?
In 1992, Canada developed the UV Index (UVI) as the effects of the sun’s harmful rays on the eyes and skin seemed to be increasing. Within two years, the United States National Weather Service (NWS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had all adopted the UVI. By 2002, the Global Solar UVI had become the standard measure of UV radiation.
In 2008, July was named UV Safety Awareness Month by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
UV radiation is invisible radiation that comes from the sun and some artificial light sources (e.g., tanning beds, grow lights, etc.). There are three types of UV radiation, and they are measured by wavelength:
You don’t have to stay out of the sun all the time to be safe. There are a number of things you can do to protect your eyes and skin so you can still enjoy some fun in the sun.
It’s a good idea to wear sunglasses anytime you’re outside. Use these tips to help you choose the right pair:
The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to block 90% of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. SPF stands for sun protection factor and is the amount of time you can be outside wearing sunscreen before getting sunburned. With SPF 30, you can stay outside 30 times longer without getting burned than you would if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen.
The sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Staying indoors during this time can help protect your skin and eyes.
You’ve probably been told not to stare at the sun during an eclipse because your eyes can be damaged. This is true. You shouldn’t look directly at the sun any time, especially if you’re not wearing sunglasses.
Staring into the sun can cause solar retinopathy, which is damage to the central and most sensitive part of the retina. You may find that you can’t see as clearly after looking at the sun. In some cases, solar retinopathy will go away in three to six months, but it also can cause some permanent vision loss.
A hat offers double the amount of UV protection. It keeps the sun out of your eyes and off your head and face, two areas that are at a high risk of skin cancer.
You probably know that spending too much time in the sun can be bad for your skin, but you may not be aware that overexposure to harmful UV rays can also damage your eyes.
Several eye problems can be attributed to long-term exposure to UV rays:
The first type of skin damage you likely notice from UV radiation is sunburn. Sunburn is the result of UVB radiation penetrating the top layer of the skin.
UVA rays can do longer-term damage because they penetrate the middle layer of your skin, leading to fine lines and wrinkles.
The biggest risk of extended and/or unprotected sun exposure is skin cancer, which is mostly caused by UVB rays. In the United States, Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It’s often found on the face, arms, hands, neck, and head because these are the parts of the body that see the most sun.
Not all exposure to the sun’s UV rays is harmful. Spending time in sunlight causes your body to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D builds bones by helping your body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food. You only need five to 15 minutes of sunlight two or three times a week to get this benefit.