Risks of Harmful UV Radiation While Driving

Do you think you’re protected from the heat of the sun (as well as the dangers to your health it can cause you) when you’re safe and sound inside the comfort of your car? Well, that’s not actually the case.

Experts are now warning people who frequently drive long distances of the potential dangers of their long exposure under the sun and the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation even if they are inside their cars.

People should start forgetting about the misconception that they need to be at least four hours at the beach to be in the risk group for skin cancer because studies say that a daily dose of one hour sitting in the traffic jam day after day all summer, can add up to a greater risk factor.

A study conducted by Dr. Jayne Weiss, Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has found that though windshields can provide some protection, the car’s side windows do not.

‘Windshields provide excellent protection against UV light, which is associated with risk for skin cancer and cataracts, but a car’s side windows do not,’ Weiss sad.

‘There appears to be considerable variation in side-window UV-A [a type of UV specifically associated with skin damage] blockage and information that is not easily obtainable by the consumer.’

Commuters are also not excluded from the dangers.

“UV-A also goes through glass, making it a potential issue for those who have daily commutes or spend extended periods in the car,” said skin cancer expert and dermatologist Dr. Doris Day from the Lenox Hill Hospital.

In another research published in JAMA Ophthalmology last May, the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute analyzed the UV protection provided by glass in 29 cars that were produced between 1990 and 2014.

Their independent study has concluded that the windshield tend to provide good protection blocking 96 percent of UV-A rays on average. The protection, however, was lower at 71 percent and inconsistent for the cars’ side windows.

The perils of UV exposure are cumulative, and symptoms of skin diseases will not show up after one or two days. This is why majority of people find it non-threatening, when in fact, skin cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK. A continuous trend in skin cancer development in the country has been increased by 360% since the 70s, recording an additional 14,000 cases in 2013.

The World Health Organisation, on the other hand, reports that worldwide, approximately 900,000 people are blind because of cataracts triggered by UV exposure, and that one out of five cataracts could be due to UV exposure.

‘People mistakenly believe that all sunglasses are made to an equal standard to block all harmful UV rays,’ says Omar Hassan, head of the professional services of a certain eyewear brand. “But this just isn’t the case. Anyone buying sunglasses off the shelf without prescription should use a reputable retailer and check the frames are CE marked as UV400.’

While putting on some glasses and lathering a layer of sunblock all you’re your body or wearing prescription sunglasses may help, experts say that UV light can still penetrate through the lotion, so it’s best to get an extra layer of protection on your car.

The car tinting industry today offers specialized window tints that can block up to 99 percent of UV rays.