Tue, Oct 07, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Don’t ignore UV exposure: forum

SUN LOVERS BEWARE With outdoor activities gaining in popularity, researchers said the public should pay more attention to forecasts of the ultraviolet ray index

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

For those planning to spend time outdoors, checking the Ultraviolet Index (UVI) forecast should be just as important as the weather forecast, a group of international experts said yesterday in Taipei.

As outdoor activities and vacations become increasingly popular, experts said the public is not sufficiently aware of the need to protect oneself from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Researchers and government officials met their counterparts from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong at the East-Asia Regional UV Symposium on Monitoring and Health Study to discuss ways to monitor UV radiation and forecast the UV index (UVI).

The conference addressed rising concerns about the impact of UV rays on human health, said Liu Chung-ming (柳中明), director of National Taiwan University’s Global Change Research Center (GCRC).

“Ultraviolet rays [are linked to] human skin problems, including cancer,” said South Korean professor Jhoon Kim, of the global environment laboratory at Yonsei University’s atmospheric science department.

Kim’s lab, which began monitoring the ozone layer in the 1980s and UV rays in the 1990s, was early in calling for Seoul to create a monitoring network, he said.

“At the time, [our] government was not aware of the changes in the ozone layer and UV rays,” he said.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, began to monitor the UVI in 1999 and began offering daily UVI forecasts three years ago, said Lee Lap-shun (李立信) of the Hong Kong Observatory.

“Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration teamed up with the GCRC in 1996 and began offering UVI forecasts to the public in 1997. Today, the country has a total of 32 monitoring stations nationwide,” Liu said.

The accuracy of forecasts for “extreme” UVI days is more than 80 percent, experts said.

This is all the more reason for Taiwanese to check UVI forecasts on TV or on the Internet, as “more people are taking up hobbies that involve outdoor activities,” Liu said.

“UV rays on this island are very strong; in the summer, cities in eastern and southern Taiwan may have UVI in the ‘extreme’ category at around noon on 90 percent of days,” Liu said.

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