Lawrence Scerri, head of the dermatology department at Boffa Hospital, said he is “not aware of any developments” on the tinted car windows proposal he first made three years ago and makes sure he repeats at the beginning of each summer, when the melanoma awareness campaign starts.
However, Dr Scerri said that no action has been taken since he made his concerns public. Nevertheless, he admitted that the health authorities have never approached Transport Malta officially to find a way forward.
Dr Scerri hopes that with some reminders TM will take action and work to encourage lightly-tinted car windows rather than almost prohibiting them altogether. He argued that lightly-tinted car windows are a tool which offer an efficient UV filter for drivers, especially delivery persons who have to spend long hours driving in the sun, all year round.
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 in Malta the sun does not only shine in summer, but throughout the year, and high UV indexes can be registered at any time during the year.
“People need lightly-tinted windows not to be capricious. We are not after dark, Hollywood-like tinted glass. Many people who suffer from skin sensitivity are referred to me to issue them with a medical certificate that allows them to have a lightly-tinted screen on their car windows which protects them from the sun’s rays while they work or use the car. This shouldn’t be happening. Lightly-tinted windows should be compulsory in a sunny island like Malta,” he argued.
What does the law say?
Car window tinting is governed by the Motor Vehicles Regulations under the windscreens and other windows section.
Legally, no vehicle with window glazing that does not allow a visible light transmission of at least 75% for the windscreen, 70% for the front side windows, 30% for the rear side windows and 60% for the rear most window, can be driven on the road, provided that if the vehicle is equipped with left- and right-hand side rear view mirrors, the minimum allowable light transmitted through the rear most windows may be below 60% but not less than 30%.
Any tint, film, other substance or material applied to any window, other than the windscreen of a vehicle should conform to the levels prescribed.
The law stipulates that a person, who for medical reasons requires tinting on the front side window to the right of the driver which would allow a light transmittance which is less than 70% but not less than 55%, shall apply for a special permit from the authority. The conditions have to be associated with photo-sensitivity disorders, as certified by an eye or skin specialist.
Photosensitivity disorders are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Diseases that are associated with light exposure include contact dermatitis, vacciniforme, lupus erythematosus, polymorphous light eruption, porphyria and xeroderma pigmentosum.
Furthermore, the law says that no tint, film, other substance or material shall be applied to the windscreen of a motor vehicle. However, the tinting of the top part of the windscreen is allowed. This should be done by using a strap located at the very top of the windscreen not wider than 20% of the height of the windscreen and not wider than a maximum of 100mm as long as the light transmittance of the strap shall not be less than 35%.
Melanoma in Malta
The incidence of melanoma is increasing worldwide, especially in countries where people are predominantly fair skinned. According to the National Cancer Registry, the total number of new cases between 1993 and 2009 was 516 – 56.6% were female while 43.4% were male. There has been a remarkable increase in melanoma incidence among women.
The number of deaths due to melanoma between 1993 and 2009 was of 92 people – 46.7% were female while 53.3% were male. Melanoma is the least common skin cancer but definitely the deadliest.
World Health Organisation’s recommendations
• 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% 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.