The next few days of intense sunshine have prompted a warning to Britons to protect their skin when stepping outside.
This is due to a recently formed hole in the ozone layer over the UK which is allowing very high levels of ultraviolet rays to enter the atmosphere. This places those prone to sunburn at greater risk from the ‘stronger than usual’ sunshine.
The ozone layer normally stops most of the ultraviolet rays from reaching people who are far below it. Each year the ozone levels across the Antarctica and at times the Arctic decline because of CFC usage by humans and ozone from other regions that fill the gap.
This has made the UV levels in Britain rise during the past few days which has formed a new ozone hole.
Since people have been wearing warm clothes for the winter months, their skins have not had adequate time to acclimatise to the UV rays by the production of melanin, a brown pigment. Melanin offers protection from the damage that is caused by ultraviolet rays in the skin cells’ DNA by absorbing the radiation.
Senior author Elena Oancea, assistant professor of biology in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology at Brown University in Rhode Island said, ‘As soon as you step out into the sun, your skin knows that it is exposed to UV radiation. This is a very fast process, faster than anything that was known before.’
Warnings have been issued to those who are at higher risk of sunburn to be particularly careful. Public Health England’s John O’Hagen has said that people experience more sunburn during the Easter period than they do in the middle of June. It may not be exceptionally hot during this period, however the UV levels are on the rise and a hole in the ozone layer worsens the problem.
The Met Office said that this is a normal occurrence around this time of year. These ‘ozone anomalies’ happen when low-level pockets which form near the North Pole during winter break away due to a lack of sunlight. These sometimes move across the UK.
Experts advise to wear a sun hat during the day, especially when the sunshine is strongest between 11am and 3pm.
Harmful effects from the sun include a higher risk of skin cancer and premature ageing, though the health benefits of being outdoors are important too. Our bodies need Vitamin D and it’s also believed that being outside helps to lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Image credit: Kieran Lamb