2007-07-20 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER Now that summer has officially begun, a lot of people are looking forward to spending time in the sun and enjoying all the pleasures summer can bring. During the summer months, before you and your family head outside, it is important to take steps to limit your exposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Here are a few sun-wise tips to make sure your summer is both safe and enjoyable.

One of the first steps you can take to ensure that you have fun in the sun is to protect yourself from getting sunburn by applying sunscreen. Doing so can help to prevent skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, and a lot of discomfort as well. When selecting a sunscreen, choose one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 that protects against UVA and UVB rays. A sunscreen's SPF indicates how long you can remain in the sun without getting burned. For example, if you would burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen and you apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15, you should be protected from sunburn for 150 minutes. Also, check the product's expiration date before applying the lotion. Sunscreen becomes ineffective after approximately three years, so be sure to replace products that have expired.

While some sunscreens are labeled with expiration dates, some are not. To remedy this, my colleagues and I are sponsoring Assembly Bill 77, which would require sunscreen to be labeled with expiration dates and storage recommendations. The bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action by the Senate.

For the best results, apply sunscreen at least thirty minutes before exposure to the sun. Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours; to ensure continued protection, you may have to reapply more frequently if you are swimming or engaging in strenuous physical activity. Shake sunscreen before using, and remember to apply it to all skin exposed to the sun, including ears, back of the neck, and back of the knees. Generally, one handful of sunscreen is enough to adequately cover the entire body.

Hats, sunglasses, and clothing can also provide protection from the sun. You may have seen advertisements for "sun-protective" clothing. These clothes are made out of special fabrics designed to block the sun's rays. They usually have a tighter weave or knit and are often darker in color. Some of these garments carry a label listing the level of protection the garment affords from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, referred to as the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) value. As with sunscreens' SPF rating, the higher a garment's UPF rating the higher the level of protection against ultraviolet rays. There are three categories of UPF protection, namely "Good UV Protection" (a UPF between 15 and 24), "Very Good UV Protection" (a UPF between 25 and 39), and "Excellent UV Protection" (a UPF between 40 and 50). Keep in mind that sun-protective clothing may lose its effectiveness over time or under certain conditions. If the garment is too tight or stretched out, damp or wet, or worn and washed repeatedly, it may provide less protection.

To learn more about sunscreen and sun safety, visit the American Cancer Society's webpage at www.cancer.org. For more information on sun protective clothing, visit the Federal Trade Commission's webpage on the product at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/ pubs/alerts/sunalrt.shtm.

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