Lawrence Scerri, head of the dermatology department at Boffa Hospital has said he is “hoping for some feedback” on the tinted car windows proposal he made two months ago.
Dr Scerri said car windows filter only ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. “A degree of tint on car windows can also filter an amount of UVA rays, and seeing that many people spend a long time in their cars, I think it would be a good idea to provide for the possibility of a degree of tinted car windows,” he said, clarifying that he is not talking about completely black windows. One must always remember that the sun does not only shine in summer, but throughout the year in Malta, and high UV indexes can be registered at any time during the year.
Following the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department’s spring campaign about the importance of preventing skin damage, it has designed a mid-summer campaign, targeting young people in particular, about the severe damage that the sun’s rays may cause. The Hamrun Scout Group is one of the main participants in the campaign, which is supported by Uriage skin products.
Peter Micallef, parliamentary assistant in the Health Ministry said that while small amounts of UV are beneficial and essential for the production of vitamin D, overexposure to UV radiation can have a negative impact on the skin, the eyes and the immune system.
Dr Scerri said that as well as the possible development of skin cancers, overexposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause premature ageing of the skin.
Speaking about sun screens, he said that despite the rumours about possible side effects, scientific evidence shows that they do more good than harm.
Charmaine Gauci, head of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department, spoke about the different types of UV, namely UVA, UVB and UVC.
The relatively long-wavelength UVA accounts for approximately 95 per cent of the UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface.
It can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and is responsible for the immediate tanning effect. It also contributes to skin ageing and wrinkling. Recent studies strongly suggest that it may also enhance the development of skin cancers.
The medium-wavelength UVB is very biologically active, but cannot penetrate beyond the superficial skin layers. It is responsible for delayed tanning and burning; in addition to these short-term effects it enhances skin ageing and significantly promotes the development of skin cancer.
Short-wavelength UVC is the most damaging type of UV radiation. However, it is completely filtered by the atmosphere and does not reach the earth’s surface.
Limit time in the midday sun: The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. To the extent possible, limit exposure to the sun during these hours.
Watch for the UV index: While you should always take precautions against overexposure, take special care to adopt sun safety practices when the UV Index predicts exposure levels of moderate or above.
Use shade wisely: Seek shade when UV rays are the most intense, but keep in mind that shade structures such as trees, umbrellas or canopies do not offer complete sun protection. Remember the shadow rule: “Watch your shadow – short shadow, seek shade”.
Wear protective clothing: A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for eyes, ears, face, and the back of the neck. Sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes will provide additional protection from the sun.
Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of sun protection factor (SPF) 15+ liberally and re-apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors.
Avoid sunlamps and tanning parlours: Sun beds damage the skin and unprotected eyes and are best avoided entirely.