When the weather forecast warns us of high UV levels, we keep the kids indoors, and do our best to keep them happily occupied. On winter days, the sun streams in at a lower elevation and cheers us up. But should it really?
The Skin Cancer Association believes we can develop certain skin cancers from sunshine beaming in through window glass.
Understanding UV Radiation
The Main Types of UV Radiation
Exposure to UV radiation correlates positively with most skin cancers. According to the Association, there are three types:
- UVA Rays that age skin, give us wrinkles, and cause some skin cancers
- Stronger UVB Rays that cause sunburn and cause most skin cancers
- Powerful UVC Rays that thankfully are unable to penetrate the atmosphere
The rays are strongest in spring and summer, between 10 am and 4 pm. They weaken with cloud cover, but are stronger at higher elevations. Finally, they are most powerful on the equator.
Proof that UV Radiations Pass through Glass
The Skin Cancer Association has reported on research conducted by Clinical Interventions in Aging. Clinical Interventions researched the development of wrinkles in eight women and two men who worked indoors near windows. Since they tended to sit in the same position, they had ‘significantly more wrinkles and sagging skin on one side their faces’.
This proved that UV radiation does penetrate unprotected glass, and thereby expose us to the threat of skin degradation, and skin cancers. The researchers thought the rays were most likely UVA, because glass blocks the UVB ones. A similar situation can develop in cars, where side windows can admit as much as 60% of UVA rays. The long-term effects could include asymmetrical skin cancers on one side of the face.
The Particular Risks Associated with UVA Radiation
Early research focused on the more powerful UVB radiation. Over the past two decades, scientists have discovered UVA does more than cause wrinkles. We now know it damages the epidermis, or outer skin layer where most skin cancer occurs. There, ultraviolet radiation targets keratinocyte cells in the basal layer of the skin.
Studies of Patients with Asymmetrical Skin Damage
Professor Philippe Humbert heads the Department of Dermatology at the University Hospital of Besançon, France. He is also Director of the Laboratory of Cutaneous Biology at the University of Franche-Comte. Professor Humbert and his team recruited patients with asymmetrical facial damage. He asked dermatologists to assess the condition of their skin. The team found that wrinkles under eyes and on cheeks, were worse on the damaged side, where skin texture was also rougher. The skin seemed duller, drier, and less elastic there too, with deeper crow’s feet.
Then they investigated the subject’s lifestyles to see if there was a connection. They learned their subjects mostly drove vehicles for a living. Alternatively, they spent several hours a day driving. While their windshields had lamination, their side windows did not. Since the French drive on the right side of the road, they now knew why the damage was on the left side of their faces.
Professor Philippe Humbert’s report concludes, “This study does suggest that daily protection against non-deliberate UVA exposure indoors, as well as outside, may be an important function of any daily sunscreen.” We think that makes the point adequately but what to do about it.
Window Glass Ultraviolet Ray Protection
Thanks to modern glass technology, we have a solution for kids playing in sunshine streaming through windows inside our homes. UV coatings are available that effectively block ultraviolet radiation. We can use them to add protection to our automobile windows, eyeglasses, and the windows of our homes and workplaces. Similar coatings are often on computer screens, keyboards, and other plastic items regularly in sunlight.
Low-E glass takes the technology even further, with transparent window coatings that minimize ultraviolet and infrared penetration. This does more than simply protect our sensitive skins. It also protects our home interiors, furniture, and soft finishing’s throughout the day. Moreover, by blocking infrared light, we remove the source of heat that raises temperature inside buildings and cars. So we save on air-conditioning cost, while enjoying pure, bright natural light.
You came to this page wanting to know about UV radiation. Now you know how to make your home a better place for your lifestyle.