UV-Protective Clothing: Convenient Sun Protection for Your Little One
NASA reports that the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface has increased over the last 30 years. Most of that increase has been in the mid- and high-latitudinal areas. Central Texas, for example, has shown a 6 percent increase in UV levels on average since 1979. In Washington, D.C., levels have increased about 9 percent since 1979. Levels appear to have reached a peak as the world works on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Still, we need to be aware of what the level of exposure is for our area, and make sure our children are protected.
Research has shown that “most of the damage done to skin by the sun that can lead to skin cancer takes place in childhood – in fact, 80% of all skin damage takes place before the age of 21.” (Sara Hiom, Cancer Care Research UK / Caroline Newton, Skin Cancer Research Fund, DailyMail)
Young children (under the age of 3) have very delicate skin and are more at risk for burning caused by UVB rays. While most sunscreens offer protection against UVA and UVB rays, manufacturers do not know, yet, how to measure the effectiveness of the UVA protection their products provide. The SPF ratings on sunscreen products refer to the protection from UVB rays. A product with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15, for example, means that you can stay outside 15 times longer than normal without getting a sunburn. SPF 30 simply means that you can stay out 30 times longer than normal. It doesn’t actually protect you from twice as many UVB rays.
What’s the deal with UV-Protective Clothing?
One of the neatest things to make it to the United States in the new millennium is actually a product from Australia – UV-protective clothing. Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. In fact, melanoma is more commonly diagnosed than skin cancer. Australians tend to be light-skinned and engage in an active lifestyle in a country with clear skies and which is located close to the Equator. In the 1990s, Australian scientists started studying the UV-protective factor of clothing and experimenting with different weaves and UV-absorbing chemicals. The Australians were the ones to come up with the UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) for clothing. The UPF tells you how effectively the fabric protects from UV rays. The bigger the number, the more the protection.
“Basically, a UPF rating of 50 indicates the fabric of the garment will allow only 1/50th (roughly 2%) of available UV radiation to pass through it. A garment rated UPF 25 permits roughly 4% (1/25th) UV transmission.” (REI.com)
When a label says that UV-protective clothing absorbs UV rays, it means that when the UV radiation interacts with the clothing, the energy of the UV rays is actually converted to heat, which renders most rays harmless. The amount of absorption of a particular garment depends upon the tightness of the weave, the color and types of dyes, and how the fabric has been treated and manufactured.
Sun Protection Strategies
The main advantage to UV-protective clothing is the convenience of not having to slather on sunscreen. While it is still recommended for exposed skin, UV-protective shirts, pants, hats and shorts make UV-protection much easier and worry-free.
Here are some other sun protection strategies:
1) Look for all-in-one suits for convenience.
2) If UV-protective clothing is not in the budget, buy cotton clothing with a tight weave. If you hold the shirt up to the light and light shines through easily, then it will not be very protective against the sun’s light.
3) Not all UV-protective clothing is meant to go in the water. Unless the garment is specifically made for swimming, change the shirt as soon as you can after it gets wet. Wet fibres are looser and will allow more sunlight through. This is also recommended for non-UV-protective clothing.
4) Choose dark colored clothing. Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays.
5) UV-protective clothing is available from many online retailers. (Coolibar.com, Amazon)
6) If buying a new summer wardrobe is just simply out of the question, consider products like SunGuard. SunGuard is a laundry additive that turns your ordinary clothes into UV-protective clothes. The active ingredient in SunGuard is Tinosorb FD, which can “boost the UPF protection of a white cotton T-shirt from UPF 5 to UPF 30.” (Sungardsunprotection.com)
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
“Keeping children safe in the sun” Dickson, Michelle. Dailymail.co.uk. Web. May 21, 2012.
Understanding Sun Protection Clothing. REI. Web. May 21, 2012.
Australia’s Experience with UV protection, Skin Cancer and Protective Clothing. Coolibar.com. Web. May 21, 2012.
What it is. Sunguardsunprotection.com. Web. May 21, 2012.
UV Exposure has Increased Over the Last 30 Years, but Stabilized Since the Mid-1990s. NASA. Web. May 21, 2012.
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