Exposition aux UV : un enjeu de santé publique croissant en période estival

UV exposure: a growing public health issue during the summer months

Summer is a period that we all eagerly await. Sunny days, beach vacations, outdoor outings… All of this is part of the summer pleasures. However, behind this radiant sun hides an invisible and silent danger: ultraviolet (UV) radiation pollution. Preventing exposure to UV radiation is a major public health issue.

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Over 80% of skin cancers are linked to excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.(CIRC 2018)


What is a UV?
UVA, UVB, UVC: what’s the difference?
UV Index (UVI) definition
UV exposure: harmful effects on health
How to protect yourself from UV rays?
Making the invisible visible with Meersens solutions

What is a UV ?

UV, or ultraviolet rays, are electromagnetic rays emitted by the sun. Although they are of a similar nature to light, UV rays are not perceptible by the human eye due to their wavelength. While our vision covers a light spectrum ranging from 400 to 800 nanometers, corresponding to the different colors of a rainbow, UV rays are located beyond the violet color that we can see.

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Ultraviolet rays play a crucial role in our bodies by promoting the synthesis of vitamin D, which is essential for the growth and health of our teeth and bones. However, they can also cause ocular and skin damage, and even contribute to the development of cancers.

UV rays are classified into three categories based on their wavelengths and their ability to penetrate the skin: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVA, UVB, UVC : what’s the difference?

UV rays, emitted by the sun, are divided into three categories: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

👉 UVA: UVA rays represent approximately 95% of the UV rays that reach the Earth’s surface. They have a longer wavelength (320 to 400 nm) and can penetrate deep into the skin, causing long-term damage such as premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancer.

💡 Good to know: UVA rays are present all year round, even on cloudy days, and can penetrate through windows.

👉 UVB: UVB rays represent 5% of the UV rays that reach the Earth’s surface. They have a shorter wavelength than UVA rays (290 to 320 nm) and are partially absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere. These UV rays are responsible for sunburns, skin pigmentation, and play a major role in the development of skin cancer.

💡 Good to know: UVB rays are the UV rays that enable our bodies to synthesize vitamin D.

👉 UVC: UVC rays have the shortest wavelength among ultraviolet rays (100 to 280 nm). They are the most harmful UV rays, but they are completely filtered by the atmosphere and do not reach the Earth’s surface in significant quantities.

💡 Good to know: Their short wavelength makes UVC rays extremely energetic and deadly to humans, fauna, and flora. UVC rays are generally used for industrial or medical purposes due to their germicidal power, as they can destroy microorganisms.

UV exposure

What is the UV index (UVI)?

In order to assess the intensity of UV radiation reaching the ground and thus potentially posing a risk to the population, a universal UV index has been developed. This index ranges from 0 to over 11. The higher the index, the greater the risk of skin and eye damage, even with reduced exposure time.

UV Exposure

UV exposure: what are the health effects?

Excessive exposure to UV radiation has numerous harmful effects. Skin cancer is one of the most serious risks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), skin cancer is constantly increasing, with over two million new cases diagnosed worldwide every year. UV rays are also responsible for the appearance of premature wrinkles, pigmentation spots, and other skin problems.

Therefore, it is crucial to take measures to protect oneself from UV rays during the summer period.

The impact of sun exposure is more significant during childhood and can contribute to the development of diseases in adulthood. UV exposure is cumulative and can lead to long-term health problems. In children, the lens is less capable of filtering UV rays, and the skin is thinner, making it more vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of UV radiation compared to adults. Thus, prolonged UV exposure and sunburns during childhood can have serious repercussions on the child, including the development of skin cancer in adulthood and eye diseases.

How to protect yourself from UV rays?

Here are some simple yet effective tips:

👉 Do not expose children under the age of one to the sun.

👉 Children under 10 years old should be particularly protected with long clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses.

👉 Stay in the shade whenever possible: it is the first step in sun protection!

👉 Use sunscreen: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply it generously to all exposed areas of your body and reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.

👉 Wear protective clothing: Opt for long-sleeved garments, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from UV rays. Clothing specially designed to block UV rays can also be an excellent option.

👉 Avoid peak sun exposure: The sun’s rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to stay in the shade during these hours or limit your time in the sun.

👉 Be aware of your environment: Reflective surfaces like water, sand, and concrete can increase the amount of UV rays reaching your skin. Be vigilant and take extra precautions in these situations.

👉Avoid tanning sessions in tanning beds: Contrary to popular belief, they do not prepare the skin for the sun and are responsible for 380 cases of melanoma each year.

Making the invisible visible with Meersens solutions

As a company specialized in environmental intelligence (air, water, noise, pollen…), Meersens can play a crucial role in protection against UV pollution:

✅ Calculation and indication of the UV index through its environmental modeling based on real-time UV radiation intensity

✅ Personalized advice and recommendations based on exposure and skin phototype.

✅ Alerts in case of excessive exposure.

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