Radiation experts at Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) have been measuring ultraviolet radiation (UV) at a number of sites since 1990.
Now it has launched public access to regularly updated data from the monitors, from Camborne in Cornwall to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. The information can be viewed from the Defra website.
Dr John O’Hagan, head of laser and optical radiation dosimetry at CRCE, said:
When the sun starts to shine many of us rush outside and enjoy some warmth which is good.
Some sun exposure does most of us good. But it’s worth remembering that exposure to the sun brings exposure to ultraviolet radiation - which can have some nasty effects.
Sometimes you can feel the heat from the sun on the skin but when it’s windy or cloudy people may think they’re less at risk – but that’s not true. UV can still be high and if you are over-exposed your skin can burn which is not only painful but can increase your risk of skin cancer.
The 9 UV monitors around the country record hourly updates of the level of UV measured and they are then posted on Defra’s UK-AIR website.
Over exposure to UV can lead to sunburn, which is a sign of skin damage and also premature skin ageing.
Dr O’Hagan said:
For many years the Met Office has provided us with invaluable forecasts of likely levels of UV.
But having all this equipment set up and a website means we can provide live measurements. Not only will this provide any visitors to the webpages with current information on UV, but tracking the data over years allows us to look at trends that may be due to climate change. It also helps when we have occasional low-ozone events in the stratosphere that increase the levels of UV reaching the ground.
With this tool people can check the UV levels online and be sure they’re taking appropriate steps for the level of risk – and enjoy the sun.
Notes to editors
- Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov/phe and follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk
- The monitors, which are a bit bigger than a dinner plate, are located in Oxfordshire, Cornwall, Glasgow, Leeds, Shetland Islands, Belfast, Inverness, London and Swansea. Pictures are available.
- If outdoors for more than 20 minutes when UV levels are high consider avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm, apply sunscreen of at least SPF15 with UVA protection, wear UV sunglasses, preferably wraparound, to reduce UV exposure to the eyes and wear a hat and light scarf and loose-fitting cotton clothes.