EPA SunWise

Protect Your Skin, Rain Or Shine

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By Lina Younes

In the United States, Memorial Day weekend is considered the kickoff of the summer season when we relax, enjoy outdoor activities and have fun under the sun. Some people even go the extra mile “to get ready” by visiting tanning salons in advance so they won’t seem so pale when they don their bathing suit for the first time. However, did you know that by tanning your skin, whether under the midday sun or in a tanning bed, you are actually damaging your skin? That “frying process” can actually cause skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States?

That’s why EPA,  its federal partners, and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention have come together to educate people about what they can do to protect their health and prevent skin cancer. The Friday before Memorial Day has been designated as “Don’t Fry Day” to make sure that people in this country enjoy outdoor activities while protecting themselves from the harmful ultraviolet rays that shine through even on the cloudiest days.

I confess that my attitude towards the sun has changed over the years. I was one of those that in my teens started using those tanning oils that basically “fried” me. However, with time, and increased awareness I’ve realized the harm I was doing to myself and now I use sunscreen instead when I’m going to be active outdoors. I’ve tried to do my best with my children teaching them to where sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats when they were on the swimming team or playing outside. Luckily, my youngest still is following my advice and happens to love wearing hats and sunglasses. While she does it for fashion purposes, I’m happy for the sun safety benefits as well.

Furthermore, the elderly have to take “additional”  steps for protection – simply they need to take steps to protect themselves.  Repeated sunburns during their youth can come back to haunt them in their golden years. Powerful UV rays can also cause cataracts. My parents, both in their 80’s, have lived most of their life in Puerto Rico. While Mom always uses sunscreen and sunglasses, she has been suffering of cataracts and sun-related damage to her eyes.   Dad, on the other hand, rarely uses sunscreen and he just had a basal cell carcinoma removed last year! At least the cancer was detected early and he is fine now.

So, regardless of your natural skin tone or where you live, you should protect yourself from those harmful ultraviolet rays. EPA has developed a free mobile app you can download to your smartphone with your local UV Index forecast. Have fun under the sun safely! Do you have any sun safety tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Do You Know Any Aspiring Artists in the K-8 Grade Range?

By Rob Landolfi

Walk into the average person’s workspace, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some art made by a special young person. In my cube it’s a poster of “Fluffy, the Sun Burn Horse-maid.” As with most endearing children’s artwork, this poster has its share of misspelled words, a heavy reliance on primary colors, a Picasso-like sense of perspective and proportion, and some wildly creative subject matter. Usually the owner of such art is the parent or some other relative of the artist. I don’t know the genius behind Fluffy at all but I feel pride and joy in it just the same.

Fluffy is an entry in the SunWise with SHADE poster contest, and is one student’s effort to teach others how to avoid the dangers of too much sun exposure—one of over 100,000 such posters sent in over the years. I’m proud to have helped so many kids protect their own health and use their creativity and talents to teach other kids to do the same, and I’m joyful because I recognize in Fluffy the hallmarks of serious learning and serious fun. I taught middle- and high-school science for 10 years before coming to EPA, and I’ve worked with enough messy science fair projects to know that nothing engages a student’s brain like the ability to bring something original and personal to a topic, and to spread understanding and ideas to her peers, regardless of how polished the final product turns out. I may never fathom why Fluffy wears a shirt that says, “Rock N’ Nose,” but I don’t have to understand that to know that this student really took in some important ideas about science and health, and had a good time telling other kids about those ideas.

So, if you know any K-8 teachers or kids in this age group, let them know about our fun and educational poster contest. The deadline is fast approaching – April 1st.

About the author: Rob Landolfi works with EPA’s SunWise Program to fight skin cancer, cataracts, and other disease by teaching people about the health risks of UV exposure. He also helps manage the SunWise with SHADE poster contest.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

August is Cataract Awareness Month…Learn How to Protect Your Eyes

cataractPeople from around the country write or call Prevent Blindness America daily seeking help affording the sometimes expensive treatments that can save their sight and improve their quality of life. Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s naturally-clear lens, generally appear as we grow older. Over time, cataract formation in one or both eyes can cause vision impairment and blindness. Did you know that cataracts affect more than 22 million people in the U.S.? That’s one in six Americans over the age of 40.

The only treatment for cataracts is removal of the natural lens. Most cataract patients receive an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens implant. This treatment can be costly. Prevent Blindness America estimates that the annual cost of cataract surgery for all patients to be more than $6.8 billion annually.

We enjoy working with EPA because their public health mission aligns with our own mission of preventing blindness. EPA just issued a report that reminds us that long-term ultraviolet radiation exposure from the sun is an important cause of cataracts. Additionally, people of all skin types are at risk for cataracts. We partner with EPA’s SunWise Program to remind both adults and children to always use eyewear that absorbs ultraviolet rays and to wear a wide-brimmed hat.

We hope that as a result of our prevention efforts, many people will never face vision loss from cataracts or the costs of cataract surgery and will be more likely to enjoy a lifetime of healthy vision.

About the Author: Ken West is Senior Director of Communications with Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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