The UV Index and you

Staff Writer
Runnels County Register
The weather forecast for Runnels County includes several days with an "Extreme" UV Index.

Knowing the UV Index and what it means can be beneficial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding skin cancer. According to the EPA, “The Ultraviolet (UV) Index, developed in 1994 by the National Weather Service (NWS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), helps Americans plan outdoor activities to avoid overexposure to UV radiation and thereby lower their risk of adverse health effects. UV radiation exposure is a risk factor for skin cancer, cataracts, and other illnesses. The incidence of skin cancer, including melanoma, has increased significantly in the United States since the early1970s.”

What’s new about the UV Index

The Index has gone through some changes over the years. According to the EPA, the current information included in the Index is as follows: The UV Index was previously reported on a scale of 0 to 10+, with 0 representing “Minimal” and 10+ representing “Very High.” As of May 2004, EPA and NWS will report the Global Solar UV Index using a scale of 1 (or “Low”) to 11 and higher (or “Extreme”). Additional differences include a new color scheme, revised exposure categories, and different break points between exposure categories. Although the categories have been reorganized and labeled, actual UV levels associated with the exposure categories in the Global Solar UV Index have not changed. In other words, a UV index report of 6 represents the same intensity UV radiation on both the old and new scales, even if 6 is called “Moderate” on the old scale and “High” on the new scale. The UV Index informs the public of the level of UV exposure expected on a given day. It is reported as a prediction of the UV level at noon, although the actual UV level rises and falls as the day progresses.Consistent reporting of the index will help the public better understand UV risk. We therefore strongly urge providers of the UV Index to adopt the new scale and color scheme.The color scheme ranges from green (for “Low”) to violet (for “Extreme”).

The UV Index reminds people to protect themselves when engaging in their normal outdoor activities. UV radiation exposure poses varying degrees of risk for all people because it affects eyes and skin. People with sensitive skin should always take action to protect themselves. It is especially important that parents and caregivers know how to protect babies and young children who are more susceptible to overexposure.

EPA recommends that communicators always encourage individuals to understand and practice the following sun protection steps:

• Check the UV Index for the UV forecast.

• Limit exposure during midday hours.

• Seek shade.

• Wear clothing made from tightly woven fabrics. UV rays can pass through holes and spaces in loosely knit fabric. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are recommended.

• Wear a hat with a wide brim that protects the eyes, face, and neck.• Wear sunglasses that provide 100%UV protection.

• Use broad spectrum sunscreens with at least Sun Protection Factor (SPF)15 and reapply regularly. Remember to apply sunscreen on any part of theskin that is exposed to the sun, such as the nose, the back of the neck, and the rims of the ears. Use lip balms or creams containing sunscreen.

The Runnels County Register will be putting the UV Index on the front page Index of the newspaper each week. On days where no rain is predicted the UV Index will be printed.