12 January 2009

Can fabric protect you?

When spending a day at the beach, one often relies on an umbrella or a gazebo to block some of the sun's rays. But how effective is it really?


Like sunscreens, fabric can also be tested for its UV protection abilities.

Fabrics with a dense weave have higher sun protection abilities than fabrics that are more loosely woven.

Sunscreens have a sun protection factor (SPF) as an indicator of how high their levels of protection are, whereas another system, called the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), is used for fabrics. This is an international rating for all fabric items such as shirts, shorts, umbrellas, tents, gazebos and swimsuits.

You'll be able to identify these garments with a separate tag attached to the garment indicating UV protection levels:

  • UPF20 blocks between 93,3% and 96,6% UV radiation
  • UPF30 blocks between 96,7& and 97,4%
  • UPF40 blocks between 97,5% and 98%
  • UPF50 blocks more than 98%

UV protective fabric and clothing can be of particular benefit to children as it assists in daily UV protection.

Note, however, that one still has to apply sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 30) to any exposed skin areas.

- (Cancer Association of South Africa, November 2007)




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