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Does Glass Block UV Rays? Sun & Glass Facts You Need To Know

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Most people don't spare a thought for the kind of sun protection that the glass around them provides.

It's easy to believe that once we're indoors or slip on that fancy pair of sunglasses, we're shielded from the kind of damage that the sun can do. But did you know you may still be susceptible to UV light and dangerous sun exposure?

Not all glass is created equally. Some glass is specially designed to block out ultraviolet radiation from the sun, while other products do much less to help protect our skin from damage.

Let's take a look at some of the common glass types that we have in our lives to understand how it might be affecting our level of protection throughout the day.

Not all UV Rays are the same

Woman wearing hat and smiling in sunshine

UV exposure through glass can be a significant concern, as it's easy to underestimate the potential harm caused by UV rays that penetrate glass windows, car windshields, and other surfaces.

While some glass offers a degree of protection, understanding the limitations and variations in UV-blocking capabilities is essential for adequate sun protection and minimising the risk of skin damage and other related health issues.

UVA Rays

UVA rays, also known as long-wave ultraviolet radiation, are a type of UV ray that can deeply penetrate the skin, even reaching the deeper layers.

These rays contribute significantly to premature skin aging, including wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots.

What's more, UVA rays can suppress the immune system and play a role in the development of skin cancer, making it crucial to have strong protection against these rays in our daily routines and environments.

UVB Rays

UVB rays, classified as short-wave ultraviolet radiation, are another type of UV ray that primarily affects the skin's outermost layers.

These rays are a leading cause of sunburn and are strongly associated with an increased risk of skin cancer, including both melanoma and non-melanoma types.

It's important to note that UVB rays can vary in intensity depending on factors such as geographical location, time of day, and season. It's best to use consistent sun protection measures, such as sunscreen, to minimise any UVB-related skin damage.

Office and home window glass don't protect you from all UV rays

Your level of protection depends on what the window glass is made of, as well as the type of UV radiation you're seeking protection from.

It's important to understand the different types of radiation that you're typically exposed to. The three main types of UV rays created by the sun are UVA, UCB, and UVC.

  • UVC is blocked by the Earth's atmosphere, so it doesn't pose a threat to people on a day-to-day basis.
  • UVB rays affect the outer layer of the skin and cause the majority of sunburns and skin cancer.
  • UVA radiation penetrates deeper into the skin and causes premature aging, tanning, and cancer from DNA damage.

If your windows are made out of normal transparent glass, they should block out most UVB radiation. UVA radiation, however, can mostly pass through normal glass and cause damage to your skin.

If your window glass has been designed to shield from UV radiation, it should offer much more protection.

Laminated glass, for example, is a thin sheet of plastic between two layers of glass that blocks out most UVA and UVB rays.

Different types of glass offer different levels of UV protection

Different types of glass offer varying levels of UV protection, and understanding these differences is essential for adequately safeguarding against harmful UV rays.

Here are the different levels of protection depending on the type of glass:

  • Amber glass, with its distinct colour, provides a moderate level of UV protection by filtering out a portion of both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Tinted glass, available in various shades, helps reduce the amount of UV rays that penetrate the glass, offering a level of protection that varies depending on the specific tint used.
  • Laminated glass, consisting of a thin sheet of plastic sandwiched between two layers of glass, provides a high level of UV protection by blocking out harmful rays.
  • Frosted glass, with its textured surface, offers moderate UV protection by diffusing and reducing the amount of UV radiation that passes through the glass, providing some shielding against harmful UV rays.
  • Car window glass typically doesn't offer adequate protection against UV rays, but the windshield is designed to block a substantial amount of UVA and UVB radiation to protect you and any passengers.
  • Clear glass, commonly used in windows, provides limited UV protection and allows UVA radiation to penetrate through, potentially contributing to skin damage.
  • Blue/green glass, often used decoratively, may provide some level of UV protection, but its effectiveness can vary, depending on the specific composition and thickness of the glass.
  • Tempered glass, known for its increased strength and safety features, does not offer significant UV protection unless it's been specially treated or coated to block UV rays.

Car windows don't stop all UV rays

While this ultimately depends on the type of car, model, and brand, car windows generally come in two varieties.

The windshield is made out of laminated glass, which as we've noted, blocks out most UV radiation.

The side windows, on the other hand, are usually made from tempered glass, which allows significant amounts of UVA radiation into the car.

This is why drivers often have skin cancer issues on just one side of their body. It's highly recommended that you wear protective clothing or sunscreen while in the car to err on the side of caution.

Not all sunglasses block UV radiation

While many believe that the darkness of the lenses in your sunglasses provides protection against the sun's rays, this is actually a myth. In fact, some transparent lenses can provide full UVA and UVB protection!

It's important to pick sunglasses that are designed to offer full UV protection, much like you would with sunscreen products.

For an added layer of protection, it's recommended that you choose polarising sunglasses, which protect against harsh glare from surfaces like water and roads.

So, does glass block UV rays?

Understanding the level of UV protection offered by different types of glass is crucial for staying sun safe.

While certain glass varieties like laminated glass or tinted glass provide higher levels of UV protection by blocking out significant portions of UVA and UVB rays, others such as clear or tempered glass may offer limited protection.

It's essential to prioritise your sun protection by wearing sunscreen, using UV-blocking sunglasses, and seeking shade during peak sun hours. You should also consider the type of glass in your surroundings to minimise UV exposure and reduce the risk of sun damage and related health issues.

Visit the skin cancer experts at SunDoctors

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The team at SunDoctors skin cancer clinics take great pride in educating the community about skin cancer and skin cancer prevention. SunDoctors is a leading provider of skin cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and education. With clinics operating in over 31 locations across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, SunDoctors patients are guaranteed a rapid diagnosis, pathology and referral.

If you want more information or have any questions, want to learn more about melanoma checks and self-examinations, or you're looking to book a skin cancer check, free call 13 – 7546 (13 – skin) or book online at sundoctors.com.au.

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