Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and other sources, such as solariums, is the major cause of skin cancer. Australia has some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world: in fact UV radiation is strong enough to cause sunburn in as little as 11 minutes on a fine January day.
It’s estimated that if we reduce our lifetime exposure to UV radiation by just 20%, Australia would have about one third fewer cases of skin cancer.
UV radiation from the sun is one of the best natural sources for vitamin D so a balance is important. Vitamin D helps to develop and maintain healthy bones and muscles. There are times when it is safe to take off your sun protection and get some sun for vitamin D.
What is UV Radiation?
UV is a form of energy produced by the sun. The sun produces different types of energy:
- Visible light – which we can see as sunlight.
- Infrared radiation – which we feel as heat.
- UV radiation – which we cannot see or feel.
UV radiation is often confused with infrared radiation. The temperature, however, does not affect UV radiation levels. UV radiation can be just as high on a cool or even cold day as it is on a hot one, especially if skies are clear. Thick cloud provides a good filter, but UV radiation can penetrate thin cloud cover. And while UV radiation is higher in summer than in winter, it is still present every day of the year.
There are three types of UV radiation, categorised by wavelength: UVA, UVB and UVC.
- UVA can cause sunburn, DNA (cell) damage in the skin and skin cancer.
- UVB causes skin damage and skin cancer. Ozone stops most UVB from reaching the earth’s surface, about 15% is transmitted.
- UVC is the most dangerous type of UV. Ozone in the atmosphere absorbs all UVC and it does not reach the earth’s surface.
Tasmania experiences high levels of UV radiation, particularly from the beginning of September to end of April. During this time the UV is 3 and above and it is important to make sun protection part of your daily routine. From May through to August, the UV levels in Tasmania are below 3, so sun protection is not generally required unless in an alpine region, near highly reflective surfaces such as snow, or if you’re outdoors for prolonged periods. UV levels are affected by a number of factors including geographic location, altitude, time of day, time of year and cloud cover. This means that UV levels are higher in some parts of Tasmania than others even on the same day.
What are the UV Index and SunSmart UV Alert?
The UV Index:
- Divides UV radiation levels into: low (1-2), moderate (3-5), high (6-7), very high (8-10) and extreme (11 and above).
The Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) measures the UV index in a location at each of Australia’s capital cities and makes this real-time data available on a daily basis. Check the ARPANSA website to see what the UV levels have been in your capital city today.
Use the SunSmart UV Alert to help protect yourself from UV radiation; it is a useful tool that identifies:
- The time period each day when the UV Index will be 3 or above – and sun protection is needed.
- The maximum UV forecast for the day.
- What the UV Index is forecast to be over the day.
For more on the the UV Index and Alert click here.
How do I get the UV Alert
The Alert is reported in the weather page of all Australian daily newspapers, on the Bureau of Meteorology website, and on some radio and mobile weather forecasts.
You can also check the Alert for cities and towns across Australia with the widget on our home page.
Download for your website
If you have your own website you can download our widget free of charge.
For smartphone users, our free SunSmart app is a great way to check the UV Alert when you are out and about. The app is available for iPhone, Android and Samsung.
So whether you are at work, home or on the move, you can easily and quickly check the times of the day when sun protection is needed.
When should I use the UV Alert?
Look or listen for the Alert when you are:
- Planning or participating in an outdoor activity or event
- Undertaking recreational activities such as running, swimming, cycling or team sports
- Watching a spectator sport, such as tennis or cricket
- An outdoor worker, or have responsibility for outdoor workers, or
- Responsible for young children and their outdoor activities.
If an Alert has been issued, you need to protect yourself during the times indicated.
For more information check: