28 February 2009

In the Toaster

The Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency recently issued a report stating that Colombia, Ecuador and Peru receive the highest Ultra Violet (UV) dose on the planet. This may not cause too much surprise among those who know that UV levels are highest in the tropics where the Ozone layer continues to be depleted at approximately 4% per decade. Just for the curious, the ozone hole formed over the poles and for a while the destruction rate was higher than in the tropics, but it seems to be decreasing now.

The World Health Organization came up with the following Global Solar UV Index (UVI) to alert population centers when UV levels become dangerous:

UV Index Description Media Graphic Color Recommended Protection
0–2 No danger to the average person Green Wear sunglasses; use sunscreen if there is snow on the ground, which reflects UV radiation, or if you have particularly fair skin.
3–5 Little risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Yellow Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with clothing and a hat, and seek shade around midday when the sun is most intense.
6–7 High risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Orange Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen having SPF 15 or higher, cover the body with sun protective clothing and a wide-brim hat, and reduce time in the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon (roughly 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM during summer in zones that observe daylight saving time).
8–10 Very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Red Wear sunscreen, a shirt, sunglasses, and a hat. Do not stay out in the sun for too long.
11+ Extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Violet Take all precautions, including: wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with a long-sleeve shirt and trousers, wear a very broad hat, and avoid the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon.


As you can see, level 11 represents an extreme risk to skin cancer and eye damage from UV radiation exposure. For this reason, the current levels in Guayaquil and Quito are downright scary: Over the past month, the UV index (UVI) has been up to 14 in Guayaquil and up to 24 in Quito! If 11 represents extreme risk, then 24 means you are in the toaster.

A 2005 IPCC summary of ozone issues observed that observations and model calculations suggest that the global average amount of ozone depletion has now approximately stabilized. This is great for the polar regions, but the Montreal Protocol seems to be too little too late for Ecuador.

My family spent this last week at the beach, and despite liberally lathering ourselves with sun block, we are all burned in one place or another. This usually wouldn't bother me too much, but I just checked the UV levels for today , at it was 13.6, and as you can imagine we did not take all precautions as the graph recommends.

I don't buy Styrofoam, spray cans or ammonia and I use as little air conditioning and electricity as possible. There are more actions individuals can take to help reduce ozone layer depletion , so I encourage you all to think about your friends in the tropics and do your part to help save our skin!


kattyscoggin said...

Lo que no entiendo es por que esta información no está en los diarios ecuatorianos, en los canales de televisión? Las revistas matinales siguen hablando de temporada playera, cuánto se vende en carnaval?? si hubiera un poco más de información, investigación y educación de parte de los medios....
Justin te sugiero envíe esta información a los medios o si me lo permites lo haré yo...
Gracias por compartir esta información es escalofriante!

Nestor y Nicola said...

WOW! WOW! WOW! I did not realize that things were this bad in Ecuador. Quito's number surprised me more than anything else. WE are definitely going to do our part to better this situation. Thanks for the info.

Vahid said...

This can't be! Al Gore said we had solved this problem already!

Justin said...

Yeah, Gore meant that the ozone holes over the poles were closing up. I haven't heard him mention the problems we experience in the tropics.