Dehydration and illnesses or injuries caused by sun exposure are nothing new to the green industry, but there are many preventative tips you can share with your crews to keep them safe.
Recently, experts on hydration and skin care conducted a webinar to discuss some of the most effective methods that can be used when working outside to prevent skin cancer, dehydration and more.
Ultraviolet awareness and skin cancer
Ultraviolet (UV) rays come in three forms: UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVA rays account for 95 percent of the UV radiation that reaches Earth’s surface. These rays are able to penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB, which causes wrinkling and premature aging.
UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn and skin reddening, and these play a key part in skin cancer development. UVC rays are blocked by the ozone layer, however, they are created artificially during industrial processes, like welding.
“Most of ultraviolet radiation is in the wavelength of UVA,” said Armand Coppotelli, skin health expert and business development and training manager for Deb USA. “UVA is just short of visible light, however, it is the longest of the wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation. The telltale marks of UVA radiation are really aged skin, premature aging, and leathery skin. It’s also a source of skin cancer.”
As a landscaper, there’s no way to avoid working in the harsh sun, and realistically speaking, there’s no way to avoid getting burned a little during the workday. The main objective is to avoid sun exposure so severe that it leads to skin cancer.
Coppotelli says that on average, about 8,500 people in the United States get skin cancer every day, one in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer and 3 million people are annually treated for skin cancer.
Melanoma accounts for almost 10,000 deaths a year, according to Coppotelli, because it is a serious, metastatic cancer. Around 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV rays from the sun.
Coppotelli notes that the most common factors that cause skin cancer are exposure to UVA, UVB and UVC rays and carcinogenic materials. Research shows that those who work outdoors naturally have a higher average risk of developing skin cancer, and this risk climbs even higher for landscapers and construction workers.
Coppotelli noted the following facts about UV rays:
- Excessive exposure can be carcinogenic to humans
- These rays cannot be seen or felt
- They are not related to temperature
- They can pass through loosely woven material
- They can pass through clouds
- They can bounce off reflective surfaces, such as metal, concrete, snow, and water
- UVA rays can pass through glass
A good way a measuring UV exposure is by using what is called the UV index, which was adopted by the World Health Organization. This index, Coppotelli says, tells you on a daily basis what the UV levels are and when sun protection methods are required.
For those working outdoors, the index recommends seeking sun protection as soon as the index reaches three, even when the sun isn’t shining. To view the index for today, click here.
Coppotelli recommends sticking to the idea of APC when dealing with sun exposure: Avoid UV exposure, Protect the skin and Check for early signs of skin cancer. He also suggests following the five S’s:
- Slip on sun protection clothing
- Slop on minimum SPF 30 sunscreen
- Slap on a hat and neck protection
- Slide on some sunglasses
- Shade from the sun when possible
When deciding which sunscreen is right for your crew, Coppotelli recommends going straight for the professional grade sunscreen products with a few key features.
The sunscreen should be a broad-spectrum SPF 30 type that can withstand UVA, UBA, and UVC rays, and it should also be able to absorb quickly and not affect a crew member’s ability to operate equipment.
The sunscreen should also be able to withstand heavy perspiration or immersion in water, and it must be reapplied every 80 minutes at minimum.
Coppotelli advises against the use of spray-on sunscreens, no sunscreens that come as a powder or towelette, brands with Retynil Palmitate (Vitamin A) and nothing with an SPF higher than 50. Coppotelli remarks that a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will block 94 percent of UVB rays, and SPF of 30 will block 97 percent of UVB rays and an SPF of 45 will block 98 percent of UVB rays.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this article, where we’ll explore the importance of educating your crews on proper hydration techniques.