Most people probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of protection that the glass around them is providing against the sun. It is easy to believe that once we are indoors or slip on that fancy pair of sunglasses that we are shielded from the kind of damage that the sun can do, however, it bears thinking about a little more carefully.
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 that we have in our lives to understand how it might be affecting our level of protection throughout the day.
Do your office or home windows protect you from the sun?
While a relatively simple question, it depends on what your home or office windows are made out of, and what type of UV radiation you are talking about. To answer this properly it is important to understand the different types of radiation that you are exposed to.
The three main types of UV rays created by the sun are UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere, so doesn’t pose a threat to people on an everyday basis. UVB radiation affects the outer layer of the skin and causes the majority of sun burns and skin cancer, while UVA radiation penetrates deeper into the skin and causes premature aging, tanning and cancer from DNA damage.
With this distinction in mind, if your office or home windows are made out of normal transparent glass, then they should block out most UVB radiation. UVA radiation, however, can mostly pass through normal glass and cause damage to the skin.
While this is true for normal transparent glass, if your home or office has glass that has been designed to shield from UV radiation it should offer more complete protection. One common example of this is laminated glass, which is a thin sheet of plastic between two layers of glass, which blocks out most UVA and UVB radiation.
Does it protect you in the car?
While this will depend on the type of car, model and brand, in general car windows come in two types. The windshield is made out of laminated glass, which as we’ve noted, blocks out most UV radiation. The side windows however 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, and are encouraged to wear protective clothing or sunscreen while in the car.
Do your sunglasses block UV radiation?
Another important question is how sunglasses can protect us from the sun. While many believe that the darkness of the lenses are what protect us from the sun’s rays, this is actually not true, as some clear, transparent lenses can also provide full UVA and UVB protection. What is important is to pick sunglasses that are designed to offer full UV protection, much like with sunscreen. For an added layer of protection, choose polarising sunglasses which protect against harsh glare from surfaces like water, roads and snow.