Sun Hazards in Your Car
The glass in your vehicle protects you from wind and debris but does little to protect you from the sun.
Most of the time, we think about protecting ourselves from sun exposure while at the beach or out for a long hike. However, millions of North Americans receive a significant portion of their sun exposure when they don’t expect: while driving.
Dermatologists have observed for years that patients in North America experience more skin damage (wrinkles, leathering, age spots, sagging, and skin cancer) on the left side of their faces. The observation became particularly poignant when combined with foreign researchers who noticed the same imbalance of skin damage occurring on the opposite side. The explanation? In countries where people drive on the left-hand side of the car, most skin damage occurs on the left-hand side of the face, and where people drive on the right-hand side of the car, most skin damage occurs on the right-hand side of the face.
Research indicates that long-wavelength UVA rays passing through car windows is what’s causing the damage. Most auto glass blocks UVB rays, and most windshields are treated to block UVA rays as well. However, the side and rear windows of vehicles allow UVA rays to fully penetrate.
UV exposure is cumulative, which means that the more time a person spends driving, the more damage is caused to the exposed side of the face and the bigger the imbalance becomes. A US study conducted by Singer, et al concluded that asymmetric photodamage (sun-induced skin damage) correlates positively with time spent driving. Alarmingly, a study conducted by Butler and Fosko showed that a majority of skin cancers in the United States develop on the left side of people’s faces and bodies.
Studies have shown an increased risk for melanoma for patients that are exposed to large doses of UVA rays from tanning beds. Due to the cumulative nature of damage caused by sun exposure, long-term exposure to UVA rays while driving may indeed increase the risk for this dangerous skin cancer.
There are several ways to protect ourselves while driving. One is to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to your face, arms, neck, and hands, before driving your car. Protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants, UV-filtering sunglasses, and hats with wide brims are other important precautions.
Thankfully, there is a more practical solution to sun exposure than slathering yourself with sunscreen every time you go for a drive. Automotive window tinting is a simple and effective way to protect yourself while driving. One study found a 93% reduction in skin cell death from UV exposure when the light was filtered by a tinted glass. High-quality window films will block 99.9% of UV rays from entering your vehicle, keeping all the occupants of your vehicle safe from harm.
To figure out a solution that will work for your vehicle, give us a shout – we’re happy to chat.