Some people really crave UVA light, because we owe it to the popular tanning of the skin. But too much UV radiation can quickly cause negative consequences. In addition to premature skin aging, the development of skin cancer is particularly feared. Find out about the risks of UV light and what you should be aware of when dealing with UV radiation.
Effects of increased UV radiation
Sensible sunbathing stimulates the formation of vitamin D in human skin. Responsible for vitamin D production is the UV component of solar radiation. But too much UV radiation has a number of negative effects on humans.
Possible long-term consequences of excessive UV irradiation are:
- premature aging of the skin
- the development of skin tumors
- Eye diseases
- a weakening of the immune system
Emergence of skin cancer
For the development of skin tumors, such as the very malignant "black skin cancer" (malignant melanoma), the high-energy short-wave UVB radiation is blamed. When it hits the skin, up to 50 percent of this radiation penetrates into the living lower layers of the skin (ephithelial cells).
There they act like ionizing radiation, which means they can damage skin cells. Sunburn is a typical manifestation of such damaged skin cells.
If the genetic information of a skin cell - the DNA in the cell nucleus - is damaged, the skin cell usually dies or the nucleus repairs the DNA itself. However, if skin cells with damaged genetic information multiply, this results in uncontrolled cell growth, the skin cancer.
Consequences for eyes and immune system
Also eye diseases are caused by the high-energy UVB radiation. Since the eye can not form a pigment protection layer in strong sunlight - as the skin does in the form of tanning - the eye lens may become cloudy due to the formation of pigments.
UVB radiation can also weaken the immune system by disrupting the body's formation of T cells - T cells are responsible for the immune system.
Light-skinned people in sun-rich countries, such as Australia, are particularly affected by the risk of increased UV radiation. Occupational groups exposed to prolonged exposure to the sun, such as gardeners and farmers, also face an increased health risk.
The risk of illness depends on the total amount of UV radiation absorbed and the type of skin. So 50 sunbaths a year, including tanning use, should not be exceeded.
Solariums - the artificial suns
Solariums like to advertise with healthy tan and risk-free beauty. However, according to a press release from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection of January 1998, the radiation of solariums is by no means more harmless than natural solar radiation; "Long-term studies in Sweden, Belgium, Scotland and Canada have shown that the risk of browning in tanning beds can be significantly increased".
In modern solariums mainly the long-wave UVA radiation is used, the higher-energy UVB content is mostly filtered out to prevent sunburns. The UVA light causes the skin's menalin to be transported from the deeper skin layers to the upper skin areas. There it is transformed into color pigments and then shows up as brown skin.
However, prolonged skin tanning can only be achieved by increasing the UVA content. The damage to the skin caused by the tanning process is then comparable to that caused by natural light with the same tan, according to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.
Pre-tanning of the skin is also popular in order to get used to the summer sun. However, since the self-protection - in the form of thickened cornea - is only built up by the UVB content, sunbeds often do not improve the self-protection of the skin.
Protect from UV radiation
Particularly affected by excessive UV radiation (sun or solarium irradiation) are children, adolescents and persons with light and sensitive skin. Also, people with a large number of liver spots as well as those with a genetic skin cancer risk should be careful.
The most effective sunscreen is loose clothing, hat and sunglasses:
- The denser the fabric of the clothing is processed, the better it protects against UV radiation. Cotton fabric or polyester / cotton fabric provides the best protection; but also pure polyester fabrics, viscose and linen fabrics are suitable.
- Sunglasses should also protect against stray side light and CE approved eyeglass lenses provide sufficient protection against UV radiation.
- Uncovered body parts are best to rub with sunscreen half an hour before sunbathing.
7 health tips for dealing with UV radiation
- Avoid sunburn in your sunbathing.
- Slowly get your skin into the sun.
- Due to the strong ozone depletion in spring, the spring sun can be particularly intense.
- Especially in southern countries avoid the intense midday sun between 12 and 15 o'clock.
- Wet skin softens and allows UV radiation to penetrate deeper, so dry off after bathing.
- Use a sunscreen with the right sun protection factor - tailored to your personal skin type - and a protective effect against UVB rays.
- Cosmetics, deodorants and perfumes can cause skin blemishes or allergic reactions, but do not use them during sunbathing.
Toddlers need to be particularly well protected. Child skin is still very sensitive and its protective function is not fully developed, it is still in development. Therefore, infants should suffer as possible sunburn.
The ozone hole
In September 2006, the American space agency NASA measured the largest ozone hole over the South Pole to date. Its size was 27.3 million square kilometers, which is about twice the size of Europe.
Currently, there is a slight ozone hole closure, with experts predicting a full closure of the hole by 2070. However, ozone depletion is subject to a strong seasonal fluctuation. The strongest ozone losses take place in winter and spring. Minor holes can spontaneously occur over short periods of time and disappear again.
Due to the progressive degradation of the ozone layer can radiate more high-energy UV radiation on the earth's surface. Increasing this harmful invisible solar radiation, however, increases the risk of serious skin and eye diseases in humans. Thus, an increase of skin cancers and eye diseases can already be observed today.
CFC as a cause of ozone destruction
The main cause of the ozone destruction are the long-lived artificial chlorofluorocarbons, more specifically the chlorine bound to it. These so-called CFCs were formerly used as propellants for spray cans, as refrigerants for refrigerators and air conditioners and as blowing agents for plastic foams.
Once the CFCs have reached the ozone layer after years of travel through the atmosphere, up to 10, 000 ozone molecules can be destroyed by a chlorine atom, some of which being complex reaction chains. About 20 percent of the ozone-depleting substances are released from natural sources such as volcanoes, algae and seaweed.
In the Montreal Protocol of 1989, a global exit from CFC production was decided. This led to a drastic reduction of CFC production and use worldwide. Germany undertook to withdraw from use of CFCs from 1995 onwards, since then production and use are only permitted in exceptional cases. Currently, about 200 countries are committed to the agreement.
Although the concentration of ozone-depleting substances in the lower layers of the atmosphere has declined in recent years, the destruction of the ozone layer may last for decades, perhaps decades.