The Dangers of Ultraviolet (UV) Light

January 13, 2010

Ultraviolet, or UV, light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light. It got its name because the spectrum consists of electromagnetic waves with frequencies higher than those that humans identify as the color violet.

UV light is found in sunlight and emitted by electric arcs and specialized lights such as black lights. Because it is an ionizing radiation, it can cause chemical reactions and causes many substances to glow. Most people feel the effects of UV light though a painful condition of sunburn. However, the UV spectrum has many other effects, some damaging, on human health.

An overexposure to UVB radiation can cause sunburn and some forms of skin cancer. Prolonged exposure to solar UV radiation may result in acute and chronic health effects on the skin, eye and immune system. The most deadly form, malignant melanoma, is mostly caused by indirect DNA damage.

Sunscreen prevents the direct DNA damage which causes sunburn. Most sunscreen products contain an SPF rating to show how well they block UVB rays. Some sunscreen lotions now include compounds such as titanium dioxide which helps protect against UVA rays. When choosing your sunscreen, it’s important to choose one that provides adequate UVB and UVA protection.

For information and resources on the best method for protection against UVB rays, visit

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