UV level now extreme

PETALING JAYA: The public should be concerned by the high level of ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the country, and should take measures to avoid its harmful effects.

According to the Meteorological Department (Met Dept), the UV index reading here varies with the time of the day, and could reach a high of 15 in the afternoon on a clear day.

Its Atmospheric Science and Cloud Seeding Division told theSun the readings reach their peak between 10am and 3pm on a typical day, and that readings for this year have been comparable to previous years.

Any readings of 11 or more are considered as extreme, according to the international standard measurement of the level of UV radiation exposure.

"It means extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Take all precautions because unprotected skin and eyes can burn in minutes," the World Health Organisation explained on its website.

Dermatologist Dr Nurashikin Ahmad said long exposure to extreme UV radiation of over 15 minutes could cause both acute and chronic long term skin effects.

"Those with sensitive skin for example are more exposed to these acute effects, like having itchiness, and sun burns. As for the long term effect, it could lead to photo-ageing like wrinkles or even skin cancer.

"So in general, the public should be worried, because considering our climate, we are exposed most of the time to sunlight," she said.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Ch'ng Chin Chwen said even for a person with good skin, extreme UV exposure could trigger skin diseases, or lead to dry skin and more pigmentation.

She added that while sunscreen helps reduce this, it does not block UV rays completely.

"Umbrellas too do not filter UV completely, and you can even still be exposed to the dangers of UV through reflections from windows and cars," she said.

The Met Dept said it is hard to gauge the average value of the UV index as it is totally dependent on the location, weather conditions and the amount of cloud cover.