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Exposure to UV Radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation does not enable us to see things; it is not visible. Visible light is composed of the colors that we see in a rainbow. “The ultraviolet region starts right after the violet end of the rainbow” (CCOHS, 1). The wavelengths range between 270 and 320 nm (Sparling, 1). Sunlight is the greatest source of UV radiation. UV radiation can also come from reflections from snow, sand or concrete (CCOHS, 1). UV lamps and mercury vapor lamps are examples of man-made sources. Light cloud cover does not block UV.

Also, UV radiation can penetrate below water’s surface. Ultraviolet levels are over 1,000 times higher at the equator than at the poles (Sparling, 3). Many plants and other marine life have shown to be very sensitive to UV-B radiation. Some thrive while other show a decrease I growth. UV exposure can stimulate vitamin D production in the body (CCOHS, 2). UV lamps are used to treat psoriasis and also are used to treat jaundice in newborn babies. However, excessive exposure can damage the skin and eyes.

UV-B, the medium wave UV, causes skin burns, redness, and darkening of the skin. Prolonged exposure increases the risk if skin cancer (CCOHS, 2). For this reason, tanning is not safe. It kills skin cells, damages DNA, and causes premature wrinkles (Sparling, 2). DNA absorbs UV-B light, causing its bonds to break. Any genetic damage that is not repaired can lead to skin cancer (Sparling, 2). Short exposure of UV radiation to the eyes can lead to inflammation of the cornea; the eyes water and there is blurred vision.

Chronic doses of UV radiation can lead to cataracts (Sparling, 3). For workers that are at risk from exposure to UV radiation, they should wear appropriate eye and skin protection. In recent years, there has been an increase in UV radiation, particularly during the summer months. When outside, one should avoid working in the sun. For long periods of exposure, wear protective clothing such as hats and UV protection sunglasses, and use sunscreen. Avoid sun exposure from 10:00 a. m. to 3:00 p. m.

; this is when sunlight is the most intense. “Sunscreens are rated according to Sun Protection Factor (SPF)” (CCOH, 6). It ranges from 1 –50 or more. The higher the number, the more protection that it provides against UV radiation. For example, SPF 15 sunscreen may absorb more than 92 percent of UVB radiation whereas SPF 30 sunscreen may absorb about 96. 7 percent. All of us can do our part in reducing pollutants; they are gradually eroding the ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s UV radiation.

With gas prices at their highest, many people have opted to walk, ride a bike, or use public transportation instead of driving. That reduces the amount of smog produced. Some buses are now using natural gas as fuel, which is environment-friendly. As previously mentioned, wearing protective clothing, education, and basic common sense can help protect from UV radiation. The “UV index” is part of the weather forecast. “The UV index is a measure of the intensity of UV radiation in the sunlight that causes reddening of the skin” (CCOHS, 6). The intensity of UV radiation increases with the UV index.

If the UV index is between 6 and 11, one should take the appropriate sun protection actions. Some medications, such as those taken for hypertension, can increase sensitivity to UV radiation. With this in mind, a little sun protection can go a long way.

Works Cited

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Ultraviolet Radiation. 27 July 2005. <http://www/ccohs. ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/ultravioletradiation. html. Sparling, Brien. Ultraviolet Radiation. 30 May 2001. <http://www. nasa. gov/About/Education/Ozone/radiation. html.

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