By Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by International UV Testing Laboratories)
We have heard about the sun’s UV rays, but after I spoke to Dr. Lewis Slaten, Textile Scientist and founder of the International UV Testing Laboratories, I was amazed that the problem is worse than I realized. Dr. Slaten explained, “During the summer, the sun is closer and emits more harmful rays. Most T-shirts only offer the same level of sun protection that you get from wearing an SPF (sun Protective Factor) of 6 to 10 sunscreen which is less than the minimum SPF 15 that doctors and scientists recommend for sunscreens. This is clearly not good enough. Two types of UV are linked to skin cancers: UVA is the deeper-penetrating form of UV which is closely associated with deadly melanomas and UVB is responsible for sun burns/ tans and for less life threatening basal and squamous skin cancers.
Clothing needs to achieve at least a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating of 15 before it can claim to be sun protective. Knowing the level of UV protection that your clothes provide is especially important for children, people suffering from certain ailments or diseases, and people taking certain types of medications which can increase sensitivity to the sun.”
According to Dr. Slaten and other experts, “The perfect treatment for skin cancer is prevention. The risk is great. On the average, someone in the U. S. gets skin cancer every 30 seconds. Applying sunscreens and lotions helps, but the most effective and longest lasting sun protection can come from the clothing you and your children wear in the sun. The most commonly worn item of clothing in the sun is the T-shirt. In fact, 1.65 billion T-shirts were sold in the us last year. That is an average of 25 per person. For years, people have chosen 100% cotton T-shirts as their favorite outdoor clothing because they are comfortable and affordable.”
People around the world are becoming more aware of the need to protect themselves and their families in the sun by wearing sun-protective clothing in addition to applying sunscreen. Parents are learning that their children should be shielded from the sun’s damaging UV rays early and throughout their lives because most of the skin damage (80%) that leads to skin cancer occurs before the age of 18. Cancer societies and associations around the world are actively recommending that people wear sun protective clothing. Sun protective clothes are now easier for consumers to find as many specialty catalog and outdoor retailers that have been offering a variety of apparel products promoted and labeled as sun protective. The experts are predicting that within the next several years all clothing that can be, will be labeled with a UV rating. See the photos in this article which show some of the styles and various types of protective clothing available for babies, children, and adults.
Dr. Slaten’s daughter moved to Australia and on a visit, he was amazed to see pre-school children wearing long sleeved shirts, long slacks, and hats with wide brims when they attend school. People living in Australia receive higher exposure to UV light.