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Three Sun Safety Tips for Boaters


Author: Nicki Belczak

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Did you know July tallies the largest total number of daylight hours? Perhaps that’s why it’s been designated as UV Safety Awareness Month.

While you’re no doubt aware of the risks of overexposure to the sun—sunburn, premature aging, eye damage and worse—did you know that being on the water can increase your exposure to the sun? Surfaces that reflect light also reflect the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. As a result, on a boat you need to be aware not only of the sun’s direct rays, but also its reflection from the water and deck of your boat.

The best way to protect yourself is to put up a good defense—your strategy should include accessories like sunscreen, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and sun protective clothing.

Start with Sunscreen. The sun emits two types of UV radiation known to damage skin: UVA and UVB rays. UVA beams penetrate deeply and cause sunspots, wrinkling and leathering of the skin. UVB rays cause sunburn and skin cancer. Clearly, you’ll want to block both—look for sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection. For UVB protection, choose an SPF (sun protection factor) rating of at least 15 (and go higher if you’re going to be out on the water all day). Experts recommend you apply sunscreen to all exposed skin—including ears and the part in your hair— and reapply it every couple hours or after swimming, even if it’s labeled water-resistant.

Make a fashion statement. For sun protection you only need to “apply” once choose sun protective clothing. While all fabrics offer some UV protection, sun protective clothing is specially designed to block UV rays. Similar to SPF for sunscreen, apparel features a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. UPF numbers indicate how well a fabric shields skin from both UVA and UVB rays. For example, a shirt with a UPF of 50 allows only 1/50th of the UV radiation to reach your skin. Add a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and eyes.

Get an eye for style — and safety. Out on the water, sunglasses are more than a fashion accessory—they’re safety equipment. Reflected light—or glare—can cause you to squint and impair your vision. Polarized lenses cut glare without reducing the intensity of the light reaching your eyes. Of course, you’ll also want lenses that block UVA and UVB rays. There are even specs made just for boaters that float.

Learn more about sun safety: http://www.foh.hhs.gov/calendar/july.html

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