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Updated 12 August 2013

Sun damage through glass

Does glass, like a car window, offer any protection from the sun's rays?

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ANSWER:

It does offer some protection - but just some. Glass is better at blocking UVB rays (those are the ones which give you sunburn) than UVA rays (which cause skin ageing like wrinkles and raise your risk for skin cancer). So just because you aren't getting burnt on a long car drive doesn't mean your skin isn't being exposed to harmful UV rays.  

Car manufacturers generally laminate windshield glass (which thus provides more sun protection), but not the side windows. In countries that drive on the right hand side of the road, people who drive regularly and get skin cancer on their facial skin are much more likely to get it on the left side i.e the side that's most exposed to the sun when you're sitting in the driver's seat. This is especially true for men, probably because they tend to drive more, and because they generally use sunscreen less than women do. In South Africa, where we drive on the left, one would expect drivers to get skin cancer on the right side of their faces more often.

Protect yourself and your passengers from the sun while driving this summer by always wearing a good sunblock cream (re-apply it at regular intervals on long trips), and keep the side window rolled up to act as an additional partial sun-shield. If you have a convertible, limit the time you drive with the top down.

- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor

@OliviaRoseInnes

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