UV Light - The Dangers and Benefits
When people think about UV light they usually imagine lying out on the beach, the sun shining high above,searing the sky and surf and slowly roasting them to a delectable lobster red. With the sun's force tempered bythe Winter, people tend to forget about the dangers of UV, think that the cloud cover or lowered temperaturesmean that their skin is safe, that there's no risk of burning or worse. This is wrong, and since each passing year brings about further erosion of the ozone layer's protection, it is especially important to learn about the realitiesof UV light, and how we can best protect ourselves from its pervasive threat.What is UV light? Simply put, it's electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength that's shorter than that of visiblelight, and longer than x-rays. Visible light, UV rays, x-rays-all of these are just names for different wavelengths of electromagnetic rays. It's called ultra-violet because these frequencies are higher than the wavelengths that wehumans identify as violet. There are five kinds of UV light, but the first two, Vacuum UV and Far UV are bothcompletely absorbed by the atmosphere.UVC is also rarely found on our planet due to its absorption by the atmosphere, but is sometimes used ingermicidal lamps due to its ability to kill germs. UVC is absorbed by the outer, dead layers of our skin, and cancause corneal burns (commonly termed welders' flash) and snow blindness, a severe sunburn of the face.Though extremely painful, UVC burns usually clear up in a couple of days.UVB is the most dangers of the commonly encountered forms of UV. It has enough energy to wreakphotochemical havoc on our cellular DNA, but not enough to be absorbed by the atmosphere like UVC. UVB isneeded by our skin to generate Vitamin D, but too much exposure can cause sunburn, cataracts and can lead toskin cancer. People who work outside are at the most risk of these dangers, and cloud cover is not enoughprotection to block UVB.UVA is the most commonly found form of UV, and is responsible for the tanning effect we see in our skin after time spent in sunlight, and can cause sunburn if exposure is excessive. The atmosphere does very little to blockthis kind of UV, and it's needed to help generate Vitamin D. However, too much exposure can cause our skin togrow tough, hard, and wrinkled. It can also suppress the immune system and cause the creation of cataracts.Most tanning booths and phototherapy use this kind of UVA.