Umbrella not enough for total sun protection
12 Feb, 2011 - 07:21pm
Stepping out in the sun armed only with an umbrella is no more a wise thing to do according to a recent study published in the scientific journal Photochemistry and Photobiology. The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Valencia in Spain and the University of Tasmania in Australia.Excessive UV exposure is known to have harmful effects on the skin and eyes increasing the risk of cancers and cataracts in humans. For ages, people have used umbrella to protect themselves from the sun along with the recent additions of sunscreen lotions, sprays etc. But this study found that an umbrella alone is not enough for providing total sun protection. About 34% of the scattered sun rays can still sneak through the ground covered by the beach umbrella. The researchers conducting this study formulated a complex mathematical model to see how much UV light penetrates through a typical beach umbrella. The experiments were conducted in Spain in the month of December throughout the midday hours, when the sun is at its peak. A five feet wide and five feet high blue and white colored beach umbrella was used. A device called ‘Shadowband’, that measures only UV rays, was used to measure the amount of radiation that penetrated the shade of the umbrella. The study found that the umbrella absorbed most of the direct radiation, letting only 5% of it through. However, sunlight from the surroundings, which accounts for about 60% of the UV involved in causing skin damage, still reached under the area covered by the umbrella. The experiment was tested only on a particular beach umbrella thus the result may vary when applied to other types or materials of umbrella. The color of the material, size of the umbrella and position of the person beneath the shade may also have an influence on the result. Other complexities in the environment such as cloud cover, pollution and the surface the umbrella is erected on may affect the result as well. Nevertheless the research shows that an umbrella on its own does not offer total sun protection. It needs to be used as an additional physical barrier along with the use of appropriate sunscreens. The findings are of particular importance for babies and young children who are often sheltered under an umbrella without additional protection. It is advisable to protect them by applying a suitable sunscreen lotion, cream or sprays. But this does not mean that you should hide under the covers on a sunny morning. With proper care and protection you can still enjoy the sun which is essential for the formation of Vitamin D, which in turn is vital for calcium absorption and maintenance of healthy bones. So next time while stepping out in the sun don’t forget to apply sunscreen and carry your umbrella.