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Sunsmart Groups Stand Behind UV Index

Sunsmart Groups Stand Behind UV Index

The Cancer Society, SunSmart, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, MetService and academic institutions are standing firmly behind their support of the introduction of the Ultraviolet Index UVI as a replacement for burn time.

Freelance weather consultant Augie Auer has stated on radio and in print that the newly introduced UV I is confusing.

He accused the groups of “jumping on the bandwagon” of the new approach to warning of sun potential damage which was developed by the World Health Organisation.

But the groups supporting the measure, which is represented by a simple fan shape with coloured, numbered bands to indicate level of risk, say the UV I is clearly a safer and more scientific measure than burn time.

“The UV I is an absolute – it tells you how much ultraviolet radiation there is in the atmosphere. It’s the same for everybody, and everybody can use that information to judge the behaviour they should take individually for that particular level of radiation,” says Wendy Billingsley, Cancer Society SunSmart spokesperson.

“Burn time gave people the message they could stay out safely in the sun for a certain length of time without burning. Try putting an eighteen-month-old fair skinned baby in the sun along side a 40-year-old weatherbeaten bloke for the same length of ‘burn time’ and see who ends up with blisters,” Ms Billingsley says.

The Cancer Society and the Health Sponsorship Council SunSmart brand have developed a website which makes the information relevant to individuals – according to their age, and skin type.

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The WHO recommendation was not adopted without thorough research undertaken in New Zealand by the Social and Behavioural Research in Cancer Group at the Dunedin School of Medicine which reported its findings in December 2002.

The research involved a strong contingent of weather media and well as the general population in focus groups and came up with a number of recommendations. These included that New Zealand adopt the WHO UV Index international guidelines and that the index be supported with behavioural sun protection messages.

“We have been working with NIWA, The MetService and other interested groups for many months to develop a way to present the UV Index in a way that is acceptable to New Zealanders and easily understood so they can protect themselves in the appropriate way from the risk of skin cancer. It is disappointing that Mr Auer is telling New Zealanders they aren’t smart enough to be SunSmart.”

The SunSmart website address is

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