The sun is at its strongest now that we’re in the throes of UV Safety Month, and according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), “the need to protect your skin from the sun has become very clear over the years, supported by several studies linking overexposure to the sun with skin cancer.”
In the "What's Your UV IQ?" article, the HHS wrote: “The harmful ultraviolet rays from both the sun and indoor tanning sunlamps can cause many other complications besides skin cancer - such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin.”
We all know the skin is our body's largest organ and that it protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. But jeepers creepers, how about those peepers?
If Not Protected, 99% of UV Radiation is Absorbed by the Fronts of Your Eyes
According to an Environmental Health report, as well as skin damage, “UV rays can also damage the eyes as more than 99% of UV radiation is absorbed by the front of the eyes. Corneal damage, cataracts, and macular degeneration are all possible chronic effects from UV exposure and can ultimately lead to blindness.”
We talk a lot about melanoma on the skin, but did you also know it can also develop within the eye? The report states, “Intraocular melanomas are a common ocular malignancy. These melanomas originate in the uveal melanocytes, which are found the iris, ciliary body, and choroids of the eye. The annual age-adjusted incidence of non-skin melanomas is 0.7 per 100,000 persons in the U.S."
Protecting Your Eyes
Protecting your eyes while working outdoors is important. As well as wearing a wide-brimmed hat to keep your face and eyes shaded from the sun, wrap-around style sunglasses with a 99% or higher UV block rating are effective UV ray deterrents. The wraparound style helps protect eyes from most angles. The Crews Checklite safety glasses from Graphic Products have an eye-orbital seal to assure the highest level of protection, and a lightweight polycarbonate lens provides 99.9% UV protection while meeting the ANSI Z87.1+ standard.
Another PPE safety glass example is the high-quality flip-up Horizon style from Uvex, a trusted name in sports, work, and recreational eyewear. The Horizon offers a shaded lens to protect against high-intensity light sources, and the clear, impact-resistant polycarbonate lens provides protection against flying particles. Spatula temples have a metal core for easy adjusting, also exceeding ANSI Z87.1 standard for high Impact.
Eye Protection and the UV Index
People can measure how intense the UV rays are on any given day by looking at the UV Index, provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The higher the number, the more extreme the risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. For instance, a UV Index reading of 0 to 2 means low danger from the sun's UV rays. On the upper end of the spectrum, a UV Index reading of 11 or more means extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure and unprotected skin and eyes can burn in minutes.
The EPA also illustrates an easy way to tell how much UV exposure you are getting by looking at your shadow. As a general rule, the site reports:
If your shadow is taller than you are (in the early morning and late afternoon), your UV exposure is likely to be lower.
If your shadow is shorter than you are (around midday), you are being exposed to higher levels of UV radiation. Seek shade and protect your skin and eyes.
PPE and Resources Available at Graphic Products
Graphic Products offers a large selection premade signs as well as application-specific DuraLabel supplies for making custom signs on demand. Signage can warn employees of impending hazards if UV rays are present. The company offers a number of safety resources, guides, and articles such as eye protection standards and more at our PPE resource center.