Driving, particularly in the United States, is a daily task for a great number of people. And with the large number of commuters and out-of-city events that go on all the time, most people spend a lot of time behind the wheel. It turns out that that might not be all that healthy – and not for the reasons you might think.
According to a new study from the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills, driver side windows don’t protect you from UV rays. This can lead to serious long-term issues such as skin cancer, cataracts, and premature aging, particularly on the left (or right, it depends on where you’re living) side of the face.
Windshield versus side window
In order to determine how much UV protection was offered by the driver’s side window as compared to the windshield, a team of researchers led by Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler analyzed this in 29 different cars from fifteen different automobile manufacturers. All the cars were produced between 1990 and 2014.
As expected, the windshield offers a great deal of protection, blocking 96 percent of all UV rays trying to make their way into vehicles. Meanwhile, side windows only blocked 71 percent of the harmful UV rays. Only fourteen percent of all the cars tested offered even adequate UV protection.
The fact that the driver’s left side of the face (or right, in some countries) is the one getting the most exposure to damaging UV rays causes a great number of people every year to develop cataracts, skin cancer, or signs of premature aging on that side of the face. The ones causing the most trouble are UV-A rays.
Prevention and UV tidbits
The premature aging seen in people getting too much UV exposure is caused by the fact that the rays enter the skin and start breaking down collagen particles. Meanwhile, UV-B rays are mostly blocked off by any type of glass, so they are mostly harmless while driving. Still, the World Health Organization classified all UV wavelengths as carcinogens.
According to dermatologist and skin cancer expert Dr. Doris Day,
While UV-B is a shorter wavelength of light and is blocked by glass, UV-A is longer and goes deeper into the skin — causing both skin cancer and premature aging as it breaks down collagen. UV-A also goes through glass, making it a potential issue for those who have daily commutes or spend extended periods in the car.
Unless car makers start improving the UV protection rates of the driver-side windows, there are only two ways of staying safe other than not driving as much – you can either wear sunscreen that protects against all types of UV rays, or you can get special window tint products that help block as much as 99 percent of all harmful sun radiation.
Image source: Pixabay