When it comes to UV rays, many people know that they are a dangerous radiation that comes from sunlight, but less well known are the differences and the damages they can cause to our skin and eyes. As part of UV Safety Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at the three types of UV radiation that we are emitted by the sun.
UVA rays account for 95 percent of the radiation reaching the Earth from the sun, notes the World Health Organization. Once they make it to Earth, they are responsible for allowing us to tan, as UVAs penetrate the deeper layers of our skin. Too much of these rays, though, will lead to wrinkling and prematurely aging skin. While UVA rays are less intense than UVB rays, they are 30 to 50 times more prevalent than UVBs. They are around 365 days a year – no matter what type of day it is – as they can penetrate through clouds and untreated glass.
Unlike UVAs, UVB rays can’t penetrate to middle layers of the skin and only affect the skin’s outermost layers. Where UVAs cause tanning to occur, UVBs are responsible for delayed tanning. This means when you go to the beach and tan and remain tan for a day or two afterwards, it is because of UVB rays. UVBs enhance skin aging like UVAs, but they also increase the chances of skin cancer developing. While UVA rays penetrate the atmosphere at a very high rate, a majority of UVB rays are filtered out, says the WHO, meaning that they are significantly less impactful by comparison. Lastly, where UVAs are always reaching us, factors such as season, location and type of day control how many UVB rays are making it into the atmosphere.
The least well-known type of UV radiation is UVCs. In fact, it’s quite likely that you’ve never even heard of these ways before, despite the fact that UVCs are the most damaging type of UV radiation. The reason for that is simple: Here on Earth, we have nothing to worry about. The Earth’s atmosphere filters out all UVC rays, meaning that none of them are able to reach the Earth’s surface, according to the WHO. This means that despite being the most damaging, the atmosphere itself protects our skin and eyes from this really harmful radiation.
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