On the Green Road: The Sneaky Sun

About the author: While Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoys vacation, he’s sending along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

Aloha from sunny Hawaii! Like Karen Reshkin a few weeks ago, I’ll be sending a few entries from vacation back to the office.

humorous drawing of a bottle of SPF 50 million sun screenSeveral years ago, I worked for the SunWise Schools program, so I know all about sun safety, from applying (and re-applying) sunscreen to wearing long- sleeve shirts, and even staying out of the sun during the middle of the day. And I know that the strongest sun occurs on the summer solstice (last week), when there are no clouds, at low latitudes and at high altitudes. Add in no recent exposure, and my wife and I have the perfect setup for major sunburn.

So when we went up Haleakala on Maui, we knew we needed to be very careful. We put on SPF 50 sunscreen that blocked both UVA and UVB, and we wore jeans, long-sleeve t-shirts, and hats with big brims (it’s only in the 60s at 10,000 feet).

For snorkeling the next day, we slopped on SPF 60, which was so thick it took several squirts to cover everything. And we wore shirts in the water.

The result? Sunburned faces. We couldn’t believe it until we realized:
1) we hadn’t been burnt at all after the mountain, so it wasn’t that trip.
2) our faces were in the water and the backs of our legs weren’t burnt, so it wasn’t snorkeling.

But we did stand outside in line for breakfast for 45 minutes from 9:30-10:15. Bingo! It’s not only the activities we know will burn us, but being outside here anytime.

So enjoy yourselves outdoors this summer, but follow the SunWise actions steps no matter what you’re doing.