What are the hazards of UV light?

As the sun shines brighter, it's crucial to protect yourself from the hidden hazards of UV light. Understand the different types of UV rays, from skin-aging UVA to burn-causing UVB. UV overexposure can lead to serious risks, including skin cancer, premature aging, and eye damage. But there are ways to shield yourself: avoid midday sun, don protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and high-SPF sunscreen, and invest in UV-protective eyewear. Keep track of the UV index, and never resort to indoor tanning beds. Safeguard your skin, eyes, and overall health with these protective measures!
woman applying sunscreen to face

Pool and beach season is upon us, and it is important to take steps to protect yourself! While there are some benefits of UV rays, like promoting vitamin D production, which is particularly good in the work-from-home age, UV rays are most often associated with sun exposure and can cause sunburn, blisters, moles, and more serious damage, like cancer. So, what are the hazards of UV light?

What are UV lights?

Ultra Violet (UV) radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and other man-made sources, like tanning beds. UV rays are categorized into three types:

  • UVA rays have the least amount of energy, though they can penetrate through the ozone layer, the Earth’s protective gaseous layer. UVA rays are associated with skin cell deterioration that causes wrinkles and aging. They are also associated with skin cancer.
  • UVB rays are generally absorbed by the ozone layer, but some rays can reach the Earth’s surface. They have more energy than UVA rays and are the main rays that cause sunburn. They are also linked to many types of skin cancers.
  • UVC rays from the sun are entirely absorbed by the ozone layer and pose little risk to people. Unfortunately, UVC rays can be emitted from certain manmade sources like welding torches.

Hazards of UV Exposure

UV overexposure can be extremely dangerous. According to the Health Physics Society, “Accidental UV overexposure can be a workplace safety issue and can injure unaware victims because UV [light] is invisible and does not produce an immediate reaction.… Reported UV accident scenarios often involve work near UV [light] sources with protective coverings removed, cracked, or fallen off. Depending on the intensity of the UV [light] source and length of exposure, an accident victim may end up with a lost-time injury even though unaware of the hazardous condition.”

Skin Cancer

In the United States, there are more cases of skin cancer than prostate, colon, breast, and lung cancer combined. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Unprotected overexposure to UV lights is the primary preventable risk factor in most skin cancers. Regularly have your dermatologist check for warning signs of skin cancer.

Premature Aging and Other Skin Damage

Sun exposure can cause thick, tough, and wrinkled skin. This kind of damage generally develops years after exposure. Up to 90% of skin changes with age can be attributed to sun damage. Additionally, sunburn is attributed to UV rays.

Eye Damage

Overexposure to UV rays can cause cataracts and other forms of eye damage. Cataracts are a form of eye damage in which a loss of transparency in the lens of the eye clouds vision. While cataracts are curable with modern eye surgery, they can lead to blindness if left untreated. Additionally, overexposure to UV lights can cause Pterygium, which is a tissue growth that blocks vision, and degeneration of the macula, the part of the retina where visual perception is most accurate.

How to Protect Yourself

Luckily, there are many ways that you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the hazards of UV lights.

  • Avoid spending much time in the sun during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), especially during the summer months. UV rays are most potent and dangerous in the middle of the day. To avoid unnecessary exposure, try to stay in the shade during these hours of the day.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants. Wearing clothing that covers your skin at all times during the year can prevent overexposure to UV rays.
  • Wear a large brim hat that covers your face and neck. Wearing a hat can protect your face, ears, neck, and head from damage, as these are parts of the body that are not covered by shirts and pants.
  • Wear sunscreen on exposed skin that has an SPF of 15 or more. The CDC recommends wearing sunscreen on exposed skin every day. The higher the SPF, the more protection you will receive, but it is important to remember that all sunscreens need to be reapplied about every 2 hours.
  • Use glasses, sunglasses, or contacts with 99% or 100% UVA and UVB protection. Wearing protective eyewear can prevent eye damage from UV rays, like cataracts and cancer around the eyes.
  • Check your preferred weather app or channel. Most weather apps can tell you what the UV index will be on any particular day. This can help you to plan your day around protecting yourself from harsh UV rays.
  • Avoid indoor tanning beds, particularly at a young age. Tanning beds are incredibly dangerous, especially for teens and young adults. Alternatively, use self-tanner or spray tanning to achieve the same look.

Use some of these tactics to protect yourself from the hazards of UV lights!

How Can We Help?

Work Health Solutions offers comprehensive healthcare solutions for your medical needs. Our qualified team treats patients and employers alike and always provides top-quality service. Our quality service is backed by years of experience working with academic and research institutions, corporate healthcare, Fortune 25 companies, small governments, and local businesses. Reach out today with any questions you may have about how we can assist you!

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Dr. Michael Tenison

A series of notable accomplishments distinguish Dr. Michael Tenison’s career in medical operations and healthcare management:

  • Successfully led medical operations at a national healthcare provider, focusing on optimizing healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.
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  • Demonstrated exceptional leadership in building and mentoring a large medical provider team, enhancing team performance and patient care standards.
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Dr. Matt Feeley

Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

  • Former Naval Flight Surgeon, exemplifying his expertise in aerospace medicine and commitment to military health.
  • Served with distinction at NSA Bahrain and HSM-37, earning the COMPACFLT Flight Surgeon of the Year award for exceptional medical service.
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  • Proven track record as a dynamic leader, well-equipped to face the challenges in a fractional medical directorship role with innovative solutions.

Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
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Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
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  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
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Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
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  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.