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Ultraviolet Radiation Levels Already Rising As Daylight Saving Arrives

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With the arrival of daylight saving tomorrow, New Zealanders are reminded that it is time to start being safe in the sun, as ultraviolet radiation (UVR) levels are already rising. Wayde Beckman of SunSmart, says it's important not to underestimate the power of the sun at this time of the year.

"After a long, cold and pretty wet winter it's tempting, with the start of daylight saving, to get out and spend more time in the sun. But spring can be deceptive, with temperatures still quite low in some places, but UVR levels are already high enough to cause sunburn, if we don't take care. "Sunburn is a big concern because it is linked to melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. About 350 New Zealanders die from skin cancer each year. It's important to remember that it's not the sun's heat that burns, but UVR, which is at its highest between September and April, especially between 11am and 4pm.

"The ultraviolet index (UVI) measures UVR levels. When the UVI is three or above, we need to follow the golden rule to 'slip, slop, slap and wrap' - slip on a shirt or into the shade, slap on a hat, slop on some broad-spectrum SPF30+ sunscreen and wrap on a pair of sunglasses."

Dr Richard McKenzie, Principal Scientist Radiation with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) says that even at this time of the year, the UV index in many parts of the country is above three for long periods of the day.

"In winter UVI levels are small, but they increase rapidly during the spring as the sun's elevation increases. Already in the north of New Zealand, the UV index exceeds three from about 10am until 3pm. Even in Invercargill at this time of the year the UVI exceeds three in the middle of the day.

"Although the Antarctic ozone hole does not appear to be particularly large this spring, it may still contribute to episodes of extreme UVI when it breaks up in early summer and the ozone-poor air redistributes itself over lower latitudes, including New Zealand's."

Wayde Beckman says it's easy to be safe while enjoying the warmer weather and longer days.

"Never get sunburnt, and remember that there's no such thing as a 'safe tan' - any change in skin colour is a sign that damage has taken place."

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