If you have been feeling hot lately and constantly complain that its not cool enough for you to function efficiently or within the comfort zones, you should feel lucky compared to most Latin American countries like Chile.
Faced with a predicament of a thinning ozone, 18 year olds near the equator have been exposed to UV radiation equivalent to seniors elsewhere, forcing Chile to search for ways to protect its people. The health risks have already led to the development of devices that measure UV radiation and issue warnings by illuminating color-coded warning lights. A consulting dermatologist at the National Cancer Corporation, said that the main problem is that people are unaware their skin receives ultraviolet radiation throughout the year, especially in summer, and that the doses are cumulative. Studies have shown that a young man at 18 years old receives the amount he should have accumulated at 60 years.
On a recent day in Santiago, a building site foreman sounded a whistle that made a dozen workers stop what they were doing amid steel, cement and cranes. Only after rubbing sunscreen on to exposed flesh did they return to work. Chile is one of the countries in South America most deeply endangered by UV light, especially in its northern regions, where the sun beats down hard throughout the year.
Chilean law requires employers to inform their workers daily about UV levels. They also are required to provide them with protection, such as hats, sunglasses and sunscreen if they work in the sun. A sign at the entrance of one job site warns about extreme UV levels, compelling Jonathan Fernandez, a risk prevention expert, to urge workers to apply sun cream.
Chile and other southern hemisphere nations, radiation levels reach their peak in December and January. At current rates, when the sun is at its highest point, only five to 10 minutes of unprotected exposure during the peak hours of radiation (between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm) can produce a skin burn. This season, solar radiation is averaging 10 percent higher than the same period in 2008. We know back in elementary that the ozone layer protects the earth and its atmosphere from the sun’s potentially harmful ultraviolet light. Pollution is blamed for causing the ozone layer to dissipate. The thinning ozone layer is directly related to increases in Chile’s skin cancer cases, which have risen by 106 percent in the past decade. In 2009, 213 Chileans died from skin cancer blamed on exposure to the sun.
Chile’s vulnerability has led the country to become a pioneer in innovations to prevent the sun’s harmful effects. One innovation is the special warning lights called “solmaforos” – a term combining the Spanish words for “sun” and “traffic light.” Their ability to measure ultraviolet radiation prompted Chileans to install them at popular resorts and on tour rides. They also are found commonly in mining operations and at construction sites. A color code built into them illuminates a green light when radiation levels are “low;” yellow when the risk is “medium;” red when the ultraviolet light is “dangerous;” and purple when it is “extreme.” An electronic circuit amplifies the signal, separates it and illuminates the corresponding light. The device has sold about 200 of the units and exported them to countries such as Spain, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.
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