sunwise

Sunny Slopes – Ski Safely!

By Julie Kunrath

Pausing at the top of the ski slope, you look down to take in the magnificent view—a scattering of white-dusted trees, rocky peaks glowing on the horizon, powdery snow begging for fresh tracks…

…and high levels of ultraviolet radiation reflecting back at you.

Where’s your sunscreen?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun isn’t just a summer concern. Sunburns happen year-round, and sun protection is especially important for winter sports, since UV radiation reflects off snow. Because of this reflection, UV intensity can be deceptively high, even in the shade. In addition, UV radiation increases with altitude because there is less chance for the atmosphere to absorb the sun’s rays. Skiing at 8,000 feet certainly offers epic views, but it also exposes you to the invisible danger of UV radiation.

As an avid skier, my father put my siblings and me on skis at an early age. Following many of my childhood skiing adventures, I remember the infamous “goggle tan”—a distinct white mask surrounded by red skin. Back then, I was just embarrassed to have a “raccoon face.” Today I understand this was a sign of overexposure to UV radiation. This was a sunburn, an indication of damaged skin and a risk factor for future skin cancer.

As the most common cancer in the U.S., skin cancer is no light matter. Every hour, one American dies from skin cancer. The good news is that skin cancer is preventable with simple sun safety strategies, like sunscreen. As a tough man of the mountains, my dad never wore sunscreen when he skied, so neither did I. I didn’t wise up until a few years ago when my older brother handed me a sunscreen bottle while gearing up for a ski day. Sometimes older brothers know best.

My advice for all snow worshippers: keep a small bottle of sunscreen in the pocket of your winter jacket. Make sure it’s broad spectrum with SPF 30 or higher. pic of UV Widget Slather it on your exposed skin before you hit the slopes and every two hours thereafter. Lift rides or hot chocolate breaks in the lodge are good times to reapply. Your eyes are just as sensitive to sun damage as your skin; protect them with sunglasses or ski goggles that have 99–100% UVA/UVB protection. You can also check the UV Index for a forecast of the day’s UV intensity. Who wants a raccoon face anyway?

About the author: Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in DC.

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.

Summer Solstice and Being Sunwise

By Kathy Sykes

I love summer, especially the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and during our summers, my brother, sister and I spent the days at Vilas Park. Located on Lake Wingra, Vilas Park had a zoo, acres of green fields and baseball fields as well as a beach. Our days were spent in the sun, swimming, building sand castles, playing ball or just hanging out with friends. We would only leave our park because we had to be home in time for dinner.

My red-headed brother Sven, whom many said resembled Danny Partridge, had freckles, fair skin and burned easily. My sister Julie and I were brunettes and tanned with ease. We often spent as much time applying suntan lotion early in the day as we did Solarcaine before bedtime. On more than one occasion Sven got badly sunburned. Once burned, he was required to stay out of the sun (yeah, right) and because mom knew that was an impossible request, she applied a precautionary white layer of zinc oxide to protect his nose, face, neck and ears. We should have heeded mother’s plea to stay in the shade during the peak sunlight hours from 10:00am to 2pm. But we often did otherwise.

The good news is that it’s never too late to be sunwise. While you are probably aware of preventative steps to avoid the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin, you may not be aware of its harmful effects on our eyes—leading to cataracts and macular degeneration. For more prevention tips

Summer is also the time to take care for preventing exposure to extreme heat. Did you know that more people die each year from extreme temperatures than from all other extreme weather events including hurricanes, tornadoes and floods combined? Fortunately we all can prevent extreme heat exposure. Air conditioning is one of the best defenses against excessive heat. If you lack air-conditioning in your home, there likely places in your community that have air conditioning. These “cooling centers” may include libraries, shopping malls, senior and centers. Ask your health care provider if the medications you take could increase your susceptibility to heat-related illness. Visit at-risk individuals at least twice a day such as those who live alone or are confined to a bed. For more tips on reducing your exposure to extreme heat

About the author: Kathy Sykes began working for the U.S. EPA in 1998. Since 2002, she has served as the Senior Advisor for the Aging Initiative.

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.

On Being the MOST Dressed Person at the Party

sunwise_logoBy Wendy Dew

I recently returned from a week long vacation at a popular lake resort. I packed for my trip knowing that the weather at the lake would be hot and sunny. You’d think that means I took lots of bathing suits, t-shirts, and shorts, right? Wrong! I packed light long sleeve shirts and pants, a hat and lots of sunscreen. I burn easily and let’s face it – I’m not a hot weather “sun-bunny” kind of person.

During my vacation, I saw boats out on the water, visited different marinas on the lake and watched all kinds of people having fun in the sun. One time, I was walking on the floating dock with hundreds of people around me and I noticed that everyone was staring at me. I quickly realized that I was the MOST dressed person at the “party!”

I was wearing light weight long sleeve shirt and pants and had a hat on my head. Everyone else was wearing a swimsuit and little else. I also noticed that almost everyone (not me!) either had a really bad sun burn or a very deep tan. Even the really young kids! I thought to myself, “don’t they know about skin cancer or sun protection?”

Most people are not aware that skin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million cases are reported annually. By following some simple steps, you can still enjoy your time in the sun and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends these action steps to help you and your family be “SunWise.”

  • Do Not Burn – Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, especially for children.
  • Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds – UV light from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.
  • Generously Apply Sunscreen – about one ounce to cover all exposed skin 20 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and provide protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear Protective Clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Seek shade when possible and remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow and Sand – water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Check the UV Index-the UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure. The UV Index forecast is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA. Visit www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html.
  • Get Vitamin D safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with Vitamin D. Don’t seek the sun.

Checkout the SunWise website if you want a little more information about the recommendations above. So I admit I may have looked a bit “dorky” at the marina…but I’m ok with that because I have my reasons. I will look younger even as I get older because I did not let myself burn or tan throughout my youth. I will be much less likely to get skin cancer and I will not suffer through any painful sunburns during my summer vacations.

Summer is almost over and the seasons are starting to change but sun protection is something you can do to protect your skin all year long. For all you kids and teens out there, do yourself a favor and either cover up or pour the sunscreen on! No need to look like a dork like me if you put on your sunscreen!

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

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.

Packing for the Beach

As with any trip, a day at the beach should involve some planning and preparation. While a bathing suit is a given, there are some things that we should or should not take to the beach. What should appear on the checklist of the do’s and don’ts you may ask? Well, the number one thing NOT to take to the beach is…plastics, especially plastic bags. While plastics are commonly used in many aspects of our lives, they have become a major component of marine debris. From water and soda bottles, to cups, utensils, containers, packaging, these plastics have adverse effects on our beaches and marine life. Plastic bags are often swallowed by marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds with tragic consequences.

So what should you do when packing for the beach? Well, take reusable bags, bottles, and containers. While at the beach, make sure you dispose of trash properly.

On the must-haves at the beach? First and foremost, make sure you are SunWise and not sun-foolish. Make sure you take some sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15—even on cloudy days. Also, wear sunglasses and protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat, for example. And in this day and age of modern mobile technology, EPA has a new mobile application that you can use on smartphones which allows you to check the UV index on the go! Just some simple tips to protect yourself, your family, and our environment.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  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.

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.

Got a Smartphone? EPA Has Launched an App to Keep You Safe in the Sun

Growing up outside of Baltimore in the late 70s, I spent the summers at the pool, cutting lawns in the neighborhood without a shirt, and riding my bike for hours. I’m paying for it now. I’ve had seven basal cell carcinomas (the least dangerous skin cancer) removed in the past five years, including three from my forehead. I’ll be going to a dermatologist twice a year for the rest of my life. You know that young men like to compare scars – well, add my childhood scars to my skin cancer scars, and I can top anyone.

After spending many years working on waste reduction issues, I came over to a part of EPA that works on healing the ozone layer and teaching kids how to be SunWise. The ozone layer acts as a kind of sunscreen for the Earth, so while it’s healing, we want to prevent skin cancer by teaching kids, their teachers and parents how to be safe in the sun.

We’ve been using the UV Index for years to forecast the strength of the sun’s UV rays—the higher the Index, the more important it is to be sun safe. Just this year, we developed a UV Index widget and put the Index on Facebook. So, you can check your friends’ status and the sun’s, and plan for a SunWise day.

Now we’re making it even easier for you to check the UV Index when you’re on the go with EPA’s smartphone applications. Of course, we’re hoping people download these free applications on their mobile phones.

I still enjoy the outdoor activities I did as a kid – especially biking – and am proud of my small collection of really nice Italian bikes. What has changed is that I am now SunWise and take better care of my skin. A lot of people are SunWise nowadays, too – including my kids. With tools like the smartphone applications, we are making it easier for folks to be smart in the sun.

About the author: Robert Burchard is a program analyst for EPA’s Stratospheric Protection Division in the Office of Air and Radiation. Robert is known for wearing his bike jerseys around the office and for speeding full-force ahead with anything technology-related, particularly when it’s about sun safety.

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.

Take It From Me: You Want to Be SunWise on Don’t Fry Day and Every Day

Back in the 60’s, in efforts to help heal a skin condition, my family doctor advocated a high level of sun exposure and UV treatments. Thinking that the sun could only help improve my condition – there were many intentional sun exposures, skin burnings/peelings, convertible top-down rides and sun lamp exposures. Fast forward about 25 years! The sun/UV exposure therapy started to reap negative benefits in my late 40’s – the generation of keratoses started and continued well into my 50’s. By my late 50’s – the crown jewel of skin cancer manifested itself. When I had my skin checked by my dermatologist, he urged me to have a biopsy of a suspicious darkened skin patch on the side of my forehead. Three days later I remember getting the call at work from my dermatologist – “It’s a melanoma and you have to get it out – fast!” My life immediately was placed on hold for three weeks until the surgery. With support and guidance from my wife Marisa, who was an oncology nurse, along with my dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon – the melanoma was removed successfully.

Since that time, I have become an advocate for what I call “sun sense” – especially for young children and adults. Our schools need to take sun safety seriously and run programs designed to make students aware of the damaging effects of the sun – encouraging “sun sense.”

sunwise_logoTo help foster this action, I have written several safety columns in cooperation with my dermatologist for science teachers on how to help students understand the causes, risks and preventative actions needed to help prevent skin cancer – especially at their young age. EPA programs like SunWise and the public health campaign of Don’t Fry Day also help spread the word about this ever increasing problem.

My own lifestyle has changed dramatically as a result of dodging this bullet. I am always searching the Internet for mainstream and alternative health actions to try and help rectify the damage done to my skin. With semiannual skin inspections by my dermatologist, juicing key fruits and vegetables, supplementing with Vitamin D, smart UV clothing, sunscreen and more, I attempt in earnest to reduce and repair damage done as much as possible. In addition, I remain vigilant and missionary in helping to get the word out there – covering up is good sun sense!

Learn how to do full body scans at: www.aad.org/public/exams/self.html

About the author: Dr. Ken Roy is a melanoma skin cancer survivor. He is known as the “safety marshal.” He is an environmental health and safety compliance officer for a public school district in Connecticut, safety consultant and author/columnist worldwide. He is a staunch advocate for what he calls “sun sense.” As part of his advocacy and protection, he wears wide brim western-style hats – thus the “safety marshal” persona was created!

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.

Be Out There – Safely!

DontHi! I’m Anne Keisman and I work on the Be Out There campaign at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Sometimes I can’t believe my luck – every day I am tasked with coming up with new ways to inspire people – especially parents and children — to go outside and play. I’m excited to partner with Don’t Fry Day to spread the word about sun safety. At NWF, we love to promote the positive side of the sun. It helps green things grow, keeps animals warm, and lets us see the world around us.

And children love the sun too. From the moment they can wield a crayon, plump yellow suns show up in their drawings – right next to the fluffy white clouds!

But — like many things in nature — the sun can be dangerous if we don’t take precautions. If you know the facts about protecting your family, you won’t have to be anxious when your family heads out to the beach or the park.  Once you’re protected from UV rays, pledge to spend more time outside with your family. Kids today spend twice as much time indoors as their parents did, missing out on the simple pleasures and lasting mental and physical health benefits of daily outdoor time.

NWF recommends that parents give their kids a “Green Hour” every day — time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. Be Out There’s practical tools for families, schools and communities make being outdoors a fun, healthy and automatic part of everyday life.

Stumped for ideas for outdoor fun? Check out National Wildlife Federation’s Summer Guide and our Green Hour activities for great tips for your family.

And on June 26, camp under the stars – in your own backyard! Join the Great American Backyard Campout.

Have fun in the sun!

About the author: Anne Keisman is Senior Associate Editor for the Be Out There Campaign at the National Wildlife Federation. Follow her at www.twitter.com/greenhour.

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.

Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Qué hace para prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y protegerse de la exposición excesiva al sol?

¿Sabía que a pesar de que es fácil de prevenir, hay más casos de cáncer de piel cada año en comparación a los casos de cáncer del seno, cólon pulmones, y próstata? ¿O que el cáncer de la piel está afectando a gente cada vez más joven? Eso se traduce a más de un millón de estadounidenses con cáncer cada año. Todo los años se designa el viernes antes del Día de Recordación por los Caídos como el “Día para no Freírse” (Día para Protegerse del Sol”) —como un recordatorio para ser prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y proteger su piel cuando disfrute del tiempo al aire libre.

¿Qué hace para prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y protegerse de la exposición excesiva al sol?

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.

Question of the Week: What do you do to be SunWise and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun?

Did you know that although it’s easy to prevent, there are more cases of skin cancer each year than cases of breast, colon, lung and prostrate cancers combined? Or that skin cancer is affecting younger and younger people? That adds up to more than one million Americans getting skin cancer annually. Every year, the Friday before Memorial Day is designated as Don’t Fry Day as a reminder to be SunWise and protect your skin while enjoying the outdoors.

What do you do to be SunWise and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

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.

Under the Summer Sun – Be SunWise

EPA's SunWise program logoWith summer in full swing, it’s the perfect chance to be outside as much as possible. But you should be mindful of a few things before complete summer abandon takes over your life. When you’re spending so much time outside, it’s important to protect your skin against the harmful rays of the sun. You don’t want to grow up with lots of wrinkles or skin cancer because you keep getting tanned or sunburned! Here are a few great steps from the EPA’s SunWise site to keep you protected:

  • Seek Shade – even when you’re at the beach or playing soccer, take time to relax under a tree or bring a big beach umbrella.
  • Wear a Hat – a hat with a wide brim is a great way to protect your face and neck. You can also rock an eco-friendly hat too, like this one made out of recycled plastic grocery bags.
  • Wear Sunglasses – make sure they block all UV rays and feel free to find a pair made out of recycled plastic or sustainable wood like these:
  • Watch for the UV Index – it’s a forecast of how intense the sun’s rays will be. Use it to plan activities to prevent overexposure to the sun.
  • Avoid Sunlamps and Tanning Parlors – though it’s tempting to have a year round tan, this will continue to damage your skin. And this season, pale is in!
  • Always Apply Sunscreen – there are so many sun protection products for your face and body, you’ll be able to pick the right kind for you. Don’t forget to re-apply often.
  • Cover Up! – beach cover-ups and loose-fitting long sleeves are the best way to keep your skin protected and still keep cool.
  • Limit Time in the Midday Sun – between 10am and 4pm is when the sun is at its peak. This is the time when you need to keep all the above ideas in mind or stay out of the sun.

Since a trip to the beach is usually a given when making plans in the summer, and look up some of the fun beach cleanup activities or start your own World Water Monitoring Day if one hasn’t been started near you. These are just a few great ways to make sure that the water you play in is safe for everyone.

As always, the EPA High School (site is a great place to find all you need to know about these topics and more.

About the author: Kim Blair is currently an intern with Environmental Education and Indoor Air Programs in Region 5. She has an extensive environmental education background and is enjoying using her previous experience at the EPA. She has been working with the EE coordinator on facilitating grants and the Web Workgroup along with getting hands-on experience working on a geographic initiative in Northeast Indiana with the Indoor Air Programs.

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.