UV is a piece of the light spectrum, and light sounds good, doesn’t it? Maybe it would put UV radiation in a more attention-getting perspective if we gave it its full name – ultraviolet radiation – and said it’s part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Fact is, UV makes up about 10% of what we get from the sun, and its ultra-low-frequency profile – just this side of x-rays – makes it a hazard we human beings would be well-advised to avoid.
It’s a sign of the reality of UV protection that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services includes it among its occupational health campaigns and resources. When we think of miners and steel workers and first-responders and other lines of work with more dramatic exposures to danger, it may be hard to realize that outdoor work itself presents one of the top hazards.
UV threatens the health of more people than any other single occupational hazard, because we all share this hazard in common, and it’s hazard that applies to both work and play. UV protection is so important that we devote the mid-summer month of July to paying closer attention and raising awareness.
Protecting a Vital Organ
The largest organ of the human body is right under our nose. And everywhere else we look, too, because it is our skin. One sign of how we take our skin for granted is that we don’t often recognize it as an organ. Yet the skin performs a role in metabolism and other essential processes, protects and cools the body, and holds everything where it belongs. It’s not just big, it’s a hard worker.
Because the hazard of UV exposure is with us whenever we go outdoors, it might be comforting to know there are many ways to protect ourselves.
What we wear is a first line of defense against UV radiation. A hat is a good fashion habit to adopt whenever we are outdoors. Long sleeves and trousers are right for outdoor exercise even in warm weather months, thanks to today’s “miracle fibers.” And remember – even on cloudy days UV is part of the light that still gets through to us. Springing for sunglasses that are UV-resistant is worthwhile. And like your other outdoor duds they can be stylish too.
Seek the shade and be aware of reflective environments. Surfaces like sand, water and snow bounce UV radiation back at you, so it’s not just coming from above. Be vigilant against sunburn, and protect children from it. Sunburn increases our chance of developing skin cancer, and the buildup of lifetime exposure increases this risk even further.
Screening is an Essential Part of UV Safety
The American Cancer Society offers handy tips on cancer screening. Self-screening is part of protection, but there are parts of the skin we never see, and the signs of skin cancer can masquerade, even when we see them. As we’ve said elsewhere, do you want to bet your life on your own ability to tell the difference between a mole and a deadly melanoma?
It’s a good idea every year to get a once-over from a professional, and July is our special month for this reminder. Just call us at 843-815-6468.